New restrictions on foreign journalists in Indonesia have been dumped just a day after being announced, with President Joko Widodo directly intervening to kill off the controversial changes.

Indonesia's interior minister this week unveiled tighter rules for visiting press, including requirements that journalists obtain a second working permit and report their activities to all levels of government.

The measures were condemned by local and international press associations and free speech advocates, with the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) describing them as a "sad reminder of the authoritarian Suharto regime", referring to the general who ruled Indonesia for 32 years.

But in a rare public rebuke Widodo instructed his minister to revoke the contentious regulations, an official said Friday.

"That was a direct order from the president," interior ministry spokesman Dodi Riyatmadji told AFP.

Widodo promised in May to lift reporting restrictions for foreign journalists wanting to report from Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua.

Indonesia has long been sensitive about foreign journalists covering Papua, where poorly armed fighters have been waging a low-level insurgency against Jakarta for decades on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population. Applying for permission to go there is complex and rarely granted.

In a statement issued Thursday the JFCC said the measures announced this week contracted Widodo's order on Papua and "calls into serious question" whether the interior ministry "understands or heeds orders from the Presidential Palace".

The foreign ministry said Friday it would work with Widodo to reduce paperwork for foreign journalists and help ensure visas are issued "quicker and more efficiently".

"Changes (to regulations) cannot be made by one or two ministers, it has to go through the parliament," foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters Friday.

Coconuts Jakarta, Updated: August 29, 2015/07:41 WIB
President Joko Widodo slaps down changes to foreign press laws(*)

Competition to develop Indonesia’s first high-speed train is getting fiercer after Japan provided a new proposal for the project, which could upset its Chinese rival.

Unhappy with Japan’s new proposal, Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xie Feng met with Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution on Friday to seek clarification.

Xie arrived at the ministry at around 2 p.m., and he appeared upset. “We hope all sides will respect the rules set down by the Indonesian government. One feasibility study? No more!” he said while rushing to the elevator.

However, about an hour later the ambassador came out of the meeting smiling.

“What I can say now is that it was a very good meeting. I am optimistic as ever. China has offered the best plan for the project and I have full confidence in our proposal,” he told reporters after the meeting.

The Chinese proposal was apparently challenged by Japan when Hiroto Izumi − a special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe − paid a visit to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Wednesday.

Izumi offered additional terms in Japan’s high-speed train proposal during his meeting at the State Palace. He claimed that Japan wanted to help Indonesia develop a high-speed railway and place it under Indonesian ownership and management.

The new Japanese proposal offers additional terms, including lower viability gap funding for the government.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already completed an initial study phase for the high-speed project that will connect Jakarta with Bandung. The project is estimated to cost around US$6 billion...

Jakarta Post, Published: Sat, August 29 2015, 6:05 PM
Competition for bullet train getting fiercer
By Nadya Natahadibrata and Tassia Sipahutar
See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/08/29/competition-bullet-train-getting-fiercer.html

Aug 28 Indonesia's president declared with great fanfare on Friday that construction of a mega power plant is now set to start after years of delay, proof he said that the government was starting to resolve its infrastructure failings.

A group of students led a hearty rendition of the national anthem at the groundbreaking ceremony in central Java, and after his speech President Joko Widodo thumped a button that set a siren wailing to mark the beginning of the project.

But obstacles still stand in the way of Southeast Asia's largest coal-fired power plant, with dozens of landowners refusing to give up their paddy fields. Indeed, no ground was actually broken at the ceremony and instead officials showed a video of two bulldozers rumbling through a barren field.

Widodo has stepped up efforts recently to convince investors that the region's largest economy is on a rebound after notching up its weakest growth for six years in the second quarter.

"I don't want any more projects that have to stop, that have to be delayed, that cannot be completed because of licenses or land clearance issues," he said at the ceremony.

"This is proof that the government can resolve the problems. Let there be no more doubt on the part of investors."

The $4 billion plant is among a handful of new infrastructure projects that the administration hopes to finally get off the ground within the next few months.

The president is expected to announce as early as Monday whether Japan or China will win a hotly contested contract to build Indonesia's first high-speed railway.

"The kick-off of this Batang project will send a positive signal to investors to put their money in projects with the public-private partnership scheme," said Sofyan Basir, head of state power firm Perusahaan Listrik Negara.

PT Bhimasena Power Indonesia, a joint venture set up by Indonesian coal miner PT Adaro Energy Tbk and Japan's Itochu Corporation and Electric Power Development Co. Ltd. (J-Power), will operate and build the 2,000 megawatt plant...

Reuters, Updated: Fri Aug 28, 2015 3:30am EDT
Indonesia's leader launches mega power plant, well, sort of
By Eveline Danubrata

The opposition leader has raised concerns about the now cancelled Operation Fortitude planned in Melbourne over the weekend, saying he didn’t want to live in a “police state”.

Ms Bishop told Network Ten it was never the intention of the force to stop people randomly in the streets and “Bill Shorten’s reaction is completely and utterly over the top”.

But Mr Shorten hit back, saying it wasn’t a matter of whether Labor’s reaction was right or wrong.

The Australian, Updated: August 30, 2015 12:24PM
Border Force farce: Bill Shorten canes Tony Abbott on security

"Bill Shorten (born in 1967) is an Australian politician who has been Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition since October 2013"
"Julie Bishop (born in 1956): Following the election of the Abbott Coalition government in September 2013, Bishop remained as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and was appointed as Australia's first female Minister for Foreign Affairs. Bishop represented the Australian government in talks over access to the MH17 crash site. In a 2015 speech explaining the Australian government's measures against ISIS, Bishop compared the psychological underpinnings of ISIS with that of Nazism."

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A Month's vacation

Anya wasn't even born when Chernobyl exploded nearly 30 years ago, but even today its radioactive fallout stalks her and other Ukrainian youngsters growing up near the disused plant.

The world's worst nuclear disaster saddled the sparkly-eyed 16-year-old with chronic cardiovascular and respiratory problems, thanks to contamination that lingers in the air, water and ground soil around her village.

A brief break comes each summer when Anya and a few dozen other children and teens trade their homes for a "clean" holiday on Portugal's west coast.

"A month's vacation in Portugal can extend their life expectancy by one or two years," said Fernando Pinho, citing a study by doctors at Ivankiv hospital, 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Chernobyl.

Pinho, 59, heads "Blue Summer", a project started in 2008 by employees of the Liberty Seguros insurance company to give Ukrainian children a chance to reduce the levels of radioactive caesium that creep into their systems at home.

Similar programs are also held in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, offering a "cure" of sun, sea, clean air and good food to several hundred young Ukrainians each summer.

Thirty-four of them came to Portugal this year. "Blue Summer" finances their transport and health insurance and they stay with volunteer host families, who cover their everyday needs.

'Invisible evil'
"I discovered the ocean here, its wonderful smell. I never tire of looking at it," said Anya in near perfect Portuguese.

It is her seventh summer in the seaside town of Peniche, north of Lisbon, in the bright, white villa of Maria Joao and Hernani Leitao, her "second family", near sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

On April 26, 1986 when one of the four reactors exploded at Chernobyl in then-Soviet Ukraine, it spewed out huge quantities of radioactive particles -- some estimates say 200 times that of the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima.

Thirty-one deaths have been directly attributed to the catastrophe, though the UN Chernobyl Forum says the radiation could eventually cause up to 4,000 deaths. The environmental watchdog Greenpeace, meanwhile, says the death toll from radiation could eventually hit 100,000 to 400,000 in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

Aside from environmental damage, long-range effects in Chernobyl region include thyroid and other cancers, leukaemia, heart and liver problems, deformations, cataracts, immune system troubles and mental health issues.

The UN Chernobyl Forum, in fact, calls the mental health impact "the largest public health problem created by the accident", according to the World Health Organization website.

Today it may be the parents who have the most health problems but "tomorrow it will be the children's turn", said Pinho...

Yahoo News, UK, Updated: 23 hours ago
'Cure' for Chernobyl children: sun, sea, clean air in Portugal;
Summer 'cure' for Chernobyl children;
Month's vacation in Portugal can extend lifespan, says docs
By Brigitte Hagemann, AFP

PARIS • The most lasting health impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will likely be psychological not physical, according to a trio of studies published in The Lancet.

Moreover, the mental health toll comes not only from the trauma of dislocation and the spectre of harmful radiation, but from deficiencies in the way civic and health officials managed the crisis, yesterday's articles argued.

The meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi facility in 2011, sparked by a massive earthquake and tsunami, is one of only five nuclear power plant accidents to be rated five or higher since the advent of atomic energy. It resulted in the evacuation of 170,000 people within a 30km radius, and massive disruption of family life and local economies.

Last year, half of more than 20,000 evacuated households who responded to a government survey were still separated from family more than three years later.

But physical health impacts have been limited.

In contrast to the 1986 explosion in Chernobyl that led to an increase in thyroid cancer among children, the Fukushima debacle is unlikely to cause hikes in cancer rates due to radiation exposure, said a 2013 United Nations scientific report. However, even if "no discernible physical health effects are expected, psychological and social problems, largely stemming from differences in risk perception, have had a devastating impact on people's lives", commented Fukushima Medical University's Koichi Tanigawa, who led 15 experts in assessing health impacts from nuclear accidents worldwide.

Meanwhile, three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the Fukushima facility, may face negligence charges over the 2011 disaster, according to an independent inquest by the Tokyo Prosecutors Office yesterday.

Straits Times, Published: Aug 1, 2015, 5:00 am SGT
Lasting toll on mental health from Fukushima

Mr Yahho could not forget the following message done by One Man who is even now extremely criticised internationally in any policy:

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on September 7 that the Fukushima situation − in particular the leakage of contaminated water from holding tanks and the constant flow of contaminated groundwater − was "under control"...

The situation in Fukushima "has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo," the Prime Minister said. But radioactive fallout and contaminated food and water are problems that have been felt in Tokyo and beyond. The Mayor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, publicly denounced the Prime Minister by saying that the problem of contaminated water leaks was "not necessarily under control" and that: "The government must acknowledge this as a national problem so that we can head toward a real solution."

"The contaminated water has been contained in an area of the harbour only 0.3 square kilometres big," Prime Minister Abe said. No it hasn't. There is routine release of contaminated water, in part because the barrier between the 'contained' area and the ocean has openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.

On July 10, the NRA said it "highly suspected" that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean. TEPCO acknowledged that fact on July 22.

US experts urged Japanese authorities to take immediate steps to prevent groundwater contamination two years ago, but their advice was ignored. TEPCO reportedly lobbied against the proposed construction of a barrier – a measure that will now be taken with government funding – because of the high cost...

Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013
Fukushima "under control"?
By Jim Green, Friends of the Earth Australia

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what kinds of lessons are we learning?

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has defended his trip to Beijing next week to watch a military parade marking the end of World War Two following concern from Japan...

Western leaders have mostly declined to attend, as has Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"China's contribution and sacrifice during the Second World War is very much recognized, (China is) appreciated for all such sufferings, and sympathized by the world's people," Ban told U.N.-based Chinese media, Xinhua reported.

Japanese media reported that Japan's Foreign Ministry has expressed "strong displeasure" with Ban's attendance.

Ban, a former South Korea foreign minister, said he was aware of those reports.

"It's important to look to the past, what kinds of lessons we have been learning, and how we can move ahead to a brighter future based on the lessons learned. That is the main purpose," he said, according to Xinhua.

Memories of the war still burn deeply in China, as well as in North and South Korea, due to what many people believe is Japan's failure to atone properly for its wartime conduct.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will also attend the Beijing parade, along with a senior North Korean official.

Yahoo News
U.N.'s Ban defends China parade trip after Japanese concern: Xinhua
By Reuters

Australian rugby boss Bill Pulver has indicated the ARU could bid if cost-cutting Japan should lose the hosting rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Pulver admitted Australia is desperate to host another World Cup but South Africa is probably ahead in the southern hemisphere pecking order, having waited longer since it hosted in 1995.

The ARU CEO stressed he believed Japan would sort out its current problems with the world body and remain the 2019 host...

The issue has arisen after World Rugby gave Japan until the end of September to come up with a “revised detailed host venue proposal” after it removed a new national stadium from its venue line-up amid huge cost overruns.

World Rugby also called for a “formal reassurance” on venues and budgets for the 2019 showcase event.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shocked the governing body last month when he scrapped plans for the national stadium for the 2020 Olympics. The stadium had been scheduled to host Rugby World Cup matches including the final.

Abe said the $US2 billion cost of the stadium was too high and a new design should be found. But any new stadium will not be ready for 2019...

The Guardian, Updated: Thursday 27 August 2015 07.04 BST
Australia may bid for 2019 Rugby World Cup if Japan lose hosting rights;
Japan have until end of September to rectify problems for 2019 edition
By Australian Associated Press

Miami (AFP) - Sea levels are rising around the world, and the latest satellite data suggests that three feet (one meter) or more is unavoidable in the next 100-200 years, NASA scientists said Wednesday.

Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than ever, and oceans are warming and expanding much more rapidly than they have in years past.

Rising seas will have "profound impacts" around the world, said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division.

"More than 150 million people, most of them in Asia, live within one meter of present sea level," he said.

Low-lying US states such as Florida are at risk of disappearing, as are some of the world's major cities such as Singapore and Tokyo.

"It may entirely eliminate some Pacific island nations," he said.

There is no doubt that global coastlines will look very different in years to come, US space agency experts told reporters on a conference call to discuss the latest data on sea level rise.

"Right now we have committed to probably more than three feet (one meter) of sea level rise, just based on the warming we have had so far," said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder and leader of NASA's sea level rise team.

"It will very likely get worse in the future," he told reporters.

"The biggest uncertainty is predicting how quickly the polar ice sheets will melt."

- Melting faster -...

Yahoo News, Science, Updated: August 26, 2015 4:33 PM
NASA sees unavoidable sea level rise ahead
By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

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Direct Approach against security Bills

TOKYO, Aug 28 − Japan said today it would slash the cost of Tokyo's new 2020 Olympic stadium by more than 40 per cent, after ditching its original plan due to the eye-watering US$2 billion (RM8.4 billion) price tag.

The cabinet approved setting a 155 billion yen (RM5.37 billion) cap on construction costs, well below the 265 billion yen estimated under the now-scrapped design.

The original was on track to become the world's most expensive sports stadium.

"We have achieved a considerable reduction in costs," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a cabinet meeting after adopting the plan today.

But "we need to complete construction for sure in time for the 2020 Games", he added.

Among the changes, the more budget friendly stadium will not have air conditioning for spectator stands and seating capacity would be reduced by at least 4,000 to 68,000 people.

On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee demanded that Japan complete its new national stadium by January 2020, three months earlier than planned. Tokyo is due to host the opening ceremony on July 24 that year.

Last month, Japan's premier surprised the IOC as he cancelled the stadium designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid due to cost overruns.

The stadium change has also angered World Rugby because the new venue will not be ready in time for the 2019 World Cup being hosted by Japan.

Yesterday, Japan promised to supply a new list of venues and fresh tournament budget to satisfy rugby's governing body.

Tokyo will launch a new tender next month and hopes to have a revised stadium design in place before the end of 2015.

The Malay Mail Online: Updated: Friday August 28, 2015 at 08:44 PM GMT+8
Japan slashes 2020 Olympic stadium price tag
See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/sports/article/japan-slashes-2020-olympic-stadium-price-tag#sthash.XUsDe09q.dpuf

Mitsubishi Corp., betting on growing demand for food in Asia, agreed to buy a 20 percent stake in Olam International Ltd., the commodity trader controlled by Singapore’s state investment company, in two deals worth S$1.53 billion ($1.09 billion).

Olam said Thursday in a statement that it will issue 332.7 million new shares for S$915 million to Mitsubishi, one of Japan’s biggest trading houses. The Tokyo-based company is also acquiring an 8 percent stake in the agriculture firm for about S$611 million from Kewalram Chanrai Group, an Olam spokesperson said.

The investment by Mitsubishi is a sign of confidence in a company that last year was fending off an attack from U.S. short-seller Muddy Waters LLC and questions about its finances and operations. The Japanese trader will become the second-largest shareholder in Olam after the deals close with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings controlling 51 percent.

“We see Mitsubishi as a strategic investor who is well aligned to our long-term growth strategy,” Shekhar Anantharaman, Olam’s executive director of finance and business development, said in a statement.

‘Competitive Bidding’
The price of S$2.75 a share paid by Mitsubishi for the new stock represents a 29 percent premium to the 2014 trading average of Olam. The Singapore company said in a presentation that the price was set “through a competitive bidding process.” Other bidders weren’t disclosed. The Kewalram Chanrai Group was the founder of Olam in 1989.

The Olam-Mitsubishi deal is the latest sign of Asian trading houses spending billions of dollars in agriculture, betting that fast-growing populations in the region will need more food.

While Olam is not a household name, it’s a $3.3 billion firm and supplies materials to companies including PepsiCo Inc. and one in eight chocolate bars eaten globally is made from beans handled by the company. The quantity of rice it handles annually could feed all of Africa for a week.

Stefan Vogel, head of agricultural commodity research at Rabobank International in London, said Asian companies have pursued a strategy of buying supply chains of food commodities.

“Overall demand will continue to grow and needs to be supplied,” he said by phone.

Olam’s shares have dropped 19 percent in the past year, more than double the 11 percent slide in Singapore’s benchmark Straits Times Index. It surged 13 percent before halting its shares on Thursday for the biggest gain since April 2009.

It rose further on Friday gaining as much as 13 percent to S$2.16.

Agriculture Deals
Other deals in the industry include Marubeni Corp., one of Japan’s top-five trading houses, buying in 2013 U.S. grain merchant Gavilon Holdings LLC for $2.7 billion plus debt. Cofco Corp., China’s largest food company, spent $3.5 billion last year to build a global grain trader, acquiring controlling stakes in Noble’s grains arm and Dutch trader Nidera BV.

Mitsubishi has also made investments in Olam in the past. In June last year, the company agreed to pay $64 million for 80 percent of Olam Grains Australia to give it control over a business that handles more than 1 million metric tons of grain a year. The same year, Sanyo Foods Co., a unit of Mitsubishi, agreed to purchase 25 percent of Olam’s packaged-food division.

Bloomberg, Updated on August 28, 2015 − 4:17 PM HKT
Mitsubishi to Buy 20% in Grain Trader Olam for $1.09 Billion
By Javier Blas and Joyce Koh

TOKYO - A group of Tokyo university students staged a rare hunger strike in front of Japan's parliament as they protested against security bills that critics feared would drag the country into foreign wars.

The move highlights growing opposition to legislation backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, just days after Japan's national bar association joined the effort to prevent the constitutionally pacifist nation from enacting changes that could see Japanese troops engage in combat for the first time since the end of World War II.

Four male students began their hunger strike on Thursday afternoon in front of the Diet building, saying a "direct and tough approach" was required to block the bills, which are being hotly debated in parliament.

The group, who spent their first night on the street in the Nagatacho political district, said they would hold off food until they reached their "physical limit".

"(A hunger strike) is an act of risking one's life... but I thought I should express my opposition to these bills more directly," said Shotaro Kimoto, 19, one of the group members and a student at the prestigious Waseda University.

"If parliamentary debate stops, then we have achieved our goal."

Under the proposed new rules, Japan's Self-Defence Forces would have the option of going into battle to protect allies even if there was no direct threat to Japan or its people.

Abe and his supporters say the bills are necessary for Japan to deal with the security environment, and want them to clear parliament during the current session which ends late next month.

But opponents say they will drag Japan into distant American wars, and the legislation is deeply unpopular among the general public.

A constitution imposed by a post-war US occupation force barred Japan's military from combat except in self-defence.

The bills cleared the powerful lower house last month.

"We were appalled and furious that the bills were rammed through the lower house despite strong opposition," said Motoya Tsuchida, 19-year-old law student at Keio University, a supporter of the hunger strikers.

"We thought we needed to voice our opposition with a tougher approach."

While relatively small street demonstrations are carried out frequently in Tokyo, hunger strikes are rare.

Two years ago, an anti-nuclear group went on a rotating hunger strike for a week over government efforts to end a demonstration calling for the end of atomic power after the Fukushima accident.

Straits Times, Published: Aug 28, 2015, 2:22 pm SGT
Japan students on rare hunger strike over security bills;
See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/japan-students-on-hunger-strike-over-security-bills

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Film and Feeling

Mr Yahho visited yesterday "The Star Pitt St" in the town to see the film of Yasmin Ahmad about a tragedy between a Chinese boy, Jason and a Malay girl, Orked:

It is rare for films from the small Malaysian cinema industry to make an impact internationally, mainly because the majority of them are rather clumsy melodramas, broad comedies and formulaic musicals made for local consumption. Therefore, it is a double tragedy that Yasmin Ahmad, one of the few Malaysian directors to make a name on the world stage, has died aged 51 after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery for a cerebral haemorrhage.

Ahmad was part of a new generation of film-makers who reflected the wide ethnic and cultural diversity of her country and the lives and dreams of its young people. Stylistically, her principal influences were Yasujiro Ozu and Douglas Sirk, although she created her own western and oriental mixture. Her films challenged ethnic stereotypes, and she was openly against any type of fundamentalism and racism, making it her life's work to support minority rights. Unsurprisingly, her feature films were disliked by the regime in Malaysia, a conservative, mostly Muslim country, for tackling taboo subjects such as inter-racial relations and teenage angst. In fact, the second, and perhaps most renowned of her six features, Sepet (2004), was banned in Malaysia, until Ahmad agreed to make eight cuts.

Sepet (which could be translated as "slit eyes"), about a relationship between a Chinese boy and a Malay girl, touched the sensitive nerve of race in Malaysia, where the memory of the terrible 1969 riots between Chinese and Malays is still strong. Ahmad, who was married to a Chinese man, made the film for $400,000 and shot it in Ipoh, where Chinese and Malay communities live in close proximity.

The film focused on a 16-year-old student, Orked (Sharifah Amani), the only child of well-off Malay parents (amusingly played by Ida Nerina and Harith Iskander), who falls for Jason (Ng Choo Seong), a slightly older Chinese boy, an aspiring poet who sells pirated video tapes at an open-air market. Despite differences in class, race and language (they communicate in English), a romance blossoms. This is often wryly observed, though it ends in tragedy. Ahmad followed the characters of Orked and her family in two sequels, Gubra and Mukhsin (both 2006).

Ahmad was born in Kampung Bukit Treh in Muar, Johor, the oldest of three children of a musician father and theatre director mother. She was educated in England and gained a degree in arts and psychology at Newcastle University. Film was far from her mind when she got a job at IBM as a marketing representative, before moving into advertising as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. In 1993, she joined the advertising agency Leo Burnett in Kuala Lumpur, where she became an influential executive creative director and for whom she made ads for Petronas, the national oil and gas company...

Yasmin Ahmad, film director and screenwriter, born 1 July 1958; died 25 July 2009

The Guardian, Published: Wednesday 12 August 2009 19.18 BST
Yasmin Ahmad;
Malaysian film director unafraid of tackling sensitive subjects
By Ronald Bergan

“How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.” - Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862

Often I’m asked by young film enthusiasts, what it takes to make a good film. My answer is always the same.

I have no idea.

I don’t know the first thing about film, and I’ve never claimed to be a good film director, or indeed, a good writer.

I do, however, have some hunches. And they are as follows:

I suspect a filmmaker is fundamentally no different from a novelist or a poet, or even a painter or photographer.

We all just want to tell a story. Or to put across a feeling we have about humanity, as we observe it.

I believe these feelings and observations must stem from a clear intention, and a sincere personal concern for the human condition. No use pretending, because sooner or later, the viewer or reader will see through your mask.

As artists and storytellers, it’s easy for us to slip into the trap of being obsessed about form rather than content.

After watching films by auteurs such as Hou-Hsiao Hsien or John Cassavetes or Yasujiro Ozu, I am always in awe of the style in which they delivered the emotions of the story...

In two of Kobayashi Issa’s haiku, centred on the humble spider, we are able to observe emotions far bigger than just about spiders.

“a broken web –
a refugee spider is still
looking for a home”

“don’t worry, spider
I keep house

Perhaps it’s just me, but in these two haiku, I found deep compassion. Far from being afraid of spiders, the haiku master clearly cared for them.

And caring about something or someone lesser than you is a powerful statement about humanity.

Therein lies the genius of haiku. In just a few words, a writer is able to convey a feeling which could very well save Mankind, seeing the way the world is heading these days.

Now, at last, we might know how to begin. And the way to start writing isn’t by writing at all, but by living. It isn’t about creating something from thin air, but about documenting our personal feelings about the things that we see.

Or to put it crudely, how are you going to be a storyteller if you have no story to tell?

Perhaps, in the end, there are no such things as creative people; there are only sharp observers with sensitive hearts.

“A man travels the world in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” – George Moore, 1873 - 1958

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Film and Feeling.
posted by yasmin at 10:42 AM

Now Mr Yahho is reading the book "Yasmin How You Know?" (Leo Burnett Malaysia, July 2012) and watching a photography taken by Takero Sato (p.39):

For months before own passing, Yasmin had this character which means "NOTHING" from Ozu's gravestone as her screensaver - to remind herself of her "nothingness" before God.

Tomorrow, Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad leaves for the Tokyo International Film Festival, where a retrospective of her work is being presented, as well as the world premier of her new film, Mukhsin.

Yasmin was already well-known in Malaysia for her heart-tugging TV commercials, which were ground-breaking and brought in a whole new style that is much emulated till today. Her commercials were, in themselves, complete short films. Even back then, her humanist concerns and pluralist approach were already evident.

The Visitor: Were you surprised that Tokyo wanted to do a retrospective of your work? What exactly did they tell you?
Yasmin Ahmad: I was VERY surprised because I still consider myself a novice and a dabbler. It was such an honour though, to be told that a big festival like Tokyo would want to do a retrospective of my little films.
The Visitor: Ever been to Tokyo? The city rocks!
Yasmin Ahmad: Yes, I have been to Tokyo several times. It's unlike any other city on earth. The Japanese are so artistic and pay so much attention to design and detail that even their billboards look beautiful. I wish this were true of the rest of Asia.

October 24 2006, 12:16 pm
Read more: http://twitchfilm.com/2006/10/going-to-tokyo-interview-with-mukhsin-director-yasmin-ahmad.html

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You'll Never Walk Alone

A MID much sadness, I am writing this column as my dear colleague, Sritharan Gopalan Kutty, or Sri , "New Straits Times" executive sub-editor, became the victim of a scourge that stalks many Malaysians and steals their lives.

Stroke, which caught the attention of Hippocrates (the Father of Medicine) over 2,400 years ago, has, over the centuries, felled many among us, afflicting grandparents, parents, relatives, loved ones and friends...

When I visited him in hospital, Sri was not breathing, not moving at all. A ventilator was helping him breathe.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of life. Sri once asked me how it was like being in a coma. For, I had lain comatose at a hospital in Vancouver, Canada, after a car accident years ago.

Like Sri, I was hooked to a life-support machine. Like Sri, I had a blood clot in my brain. However, I woke up after nearly a month, but Sri never did...

Sri was the strong, silent type who kept his pain, discomfort or worries to himself. Tragically, this is not a good thing. We had no idea that his body had become a time bomb, leading to the brain attack.

Sri wasn’t a smoker or drinker, though he wished he could eat like me whenever we were at a food court. Life just wasn’t fair to my friend. But then, the world is full of unfairness.

His death is a grim reminder that we need to take a good look at our lives again and see whether we have been living dangerously, health-wise.

Sun Tzu says if you know your enemy and know yourself, you can fight a hundred battles without disaster. Malaysians’ three major enemies are cancer, heart disease and stroke.

So, the more you know about the three illnesses and the more you know about your own body, the better you can defend yourself.

Farewell, Sri, my dear friend. I will miss you, I really will. In the spirit of Liverpool, you will never walk alone. You will always walk in my mind and that of other friends. And, I pray that you also walk with God.

New Straits Times, Updated: 28 August 2015 at 12:00 PM
My friend, you’ll never walk alone
By Chan Wai Kong, NST deputy sports editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The father of a Virginia journalist killed in an on-air shooting said on Thursday he would become a crusader for gun control, but analysts said there was little likelihood of legislation on the federal level any time soon, despite changes in some states.

Two journalists, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Roanoke CBS affiliate WDBJ7, were shot during a live interview on Wednesday by a disgruntled former station employee who later killed himself. The woman who was being interviewed was wounded and hospitalized.

Parker's father, Andy Parker, urged state and federal lawmakers to take action on gun control, especially to keep firearms out of the hands of people who were mentally unstable.

"I'm not going to rest until I see something happen. We've got to have our legislators and congressmen step up to the plate and stop being cowards about this," Parker told CNN, describing himself as a supporter of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

He said the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, likely would contend that his daughter and Ward would have been safe if they themselves had been armed...

The United States had about 34,000 firearms deaths in 2013, with almost two-thirds of them suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...

President Barack Obama supported legislation that would have extended background checks for gun buyers and banned rapid-firing assault weapons. But despite national revulsion over the Newtown killings it was rejected in April 2013 by the U.S. Senate, including by some lawmakers in Obama's Democratic Party...

Reuters, Updated: August 28, 2015
Father of Virginia TV reporter slain on air vows to fight for gun control
By Ian Simpson

A spokesman for the channel said the unnamed employee had been removed from the job due to his "extremely inappropriate" behaviour.

The ministry demanded an explanation for the graphic picture that appeared late Monday in the forum, which was set up for foreign journalists working in Thailand.

"We deeply apologise to the Thai foreign ministry and other people concerned," the spokesman said, adding the journalist had been urged to "seriously reflect" on the incident.

Japanese media said the bureau chief, who is in his forties, had meant to send the picture to a female friend, but instead uploaded it through popular messaging app Line to about 150 journalists who belong to the forum.

He left the forum immediately after the incident, prompting a warning that "actions will be taken" from a ministry official and a vomiting emoji from one group member as a few others in the forum questioned what had just happened.

"May we remind you that this (forum) is for official purposes. Actions will be taken," the ministry official said.

"Just leaving the room does not mean this action won’t have consequences."

Cases of so-called "sexting," or sending sexually explicit images by phone, have exploded with the prevalence of smartphones and other mobile devices.

In one of the best known incidents, Anthony Weiner quit the US House of Representatives in 2011 after confessing that he used social media to send sexually explicit pictures of himself to a number of women.

His sexting problems returned and foiled his chances in New York City's mayoral race two years later.

AFP, Updated: August 1, 2015 9:59 AM
Japanese journalist pulls a 'Weiner' in Thailand

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endangered rhino

Backed by the evidence of hundreds of photographs of animal misery, these pictures speak volumes of the inadequacy of such animal establishments equip themselves with knowledge or the commitment to look into and maintain their animals in conditions that meet their species-specific needs. Due to the lack of enforcement, many animals have had to suffer over the years at the hands of zoo operators whose main purpose is to make money. When a zoo is facing issues with resources, again, animals suffer. This has resulted in zoochosis (mental illness caused due to stress of captivity) in many of the animals we have come across during investigations.

These findings revealed the systemic failure of government, authorities and the enforcement agencies to ensure that Malaysian zoos meet their legal obligations to species conservation, education and animal welfare.

Zoos must be responsible and keep animals in conditions that satisfy their social behavioural and biological needs, meet exacting standards of housing, husbandry, welfare and health for their hundreds of inhabitants.

It will be interesting to see how places like Animal World Safari in A’famosa Resort Melaka and Perlis Snake & Reptile Farm change, if at all, because recent investigations reveal most zoos have yet to comply with the new wildlife law. The fact that Perhilitan have given zoos six months to comply with the new law tells us that massive changes are needed for zoos to clean up their act. Nevertheless, if a zoo is currently carrying out activities which abuse an animal, it should be stopped as soon as the abuse is revealed, there should be no such thing as a ‘grace period’ for animal abuse.

We also hope there will be no extension to the grace period given to all zoo operators. We still see no changes in most bad zoos which have been revealed. What is unquestionable is that the majority of zoos are run for profit with little or no educational or conservation value.

Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) Media Statement – 26 June 2012
Torture in our zoos

CINCINNATI − A zoo that has the last Sumatran rhino in the United States on Tuesday announced plans to send him to Southeast Asia on a mission to mate and help preserve his critically endangered species.

Conservation experts at the Cincinnati Zoo say 8-year-old Harapan could be on his way within several weeks to Indonesia, where nearly all of the estimated 100 remaining Sumatran rhinos live. Numbers of the two-horned descendants of Ice Age wooly rhinos have fallen by some 90 percent since the mid-1980s as development of their Southeast Asia forest habitat and poachers seeking their prized horns took their toll.

Cincinnati’s zoo has been a pioneer in breeding the species, also called “hairy rhinos,” producing the first three born in captivity in modern times. Harapan will join the eldest, Andalas, who has been in Indonesia since 2007 and has produced one male offspring. Andalas will turn 14 next month...

Conservationists and government officials met in Singapore in 2013 for a Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit to discuss increasing action to protect the species.

Environment ministry officials in South Africa, home to most of the world’s remaining rhinos overall, reported a total of 393 rhino poachings through April, an increase of more than 20 percent over the same period in 2014. Rhino advocates said recently they believe the losses are even higher.

South Africa has struggled to counter poaching syndicates cashing in on high demand for rhino horns in parts of Asia where some people claim they have medicinal properties for treating everything from hangovers to cancer.

August 26, 2015 at 10:44am
US zoo sends endangered rhino to Indonesia to mate
By Associated Press

SUMATRA, Indonesia, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Sumatran rhinoceros could once be found through India, China and Southeast Asia. Today, the range of the critically endangered species is constantly shrinking.

Recently, researchers announced the extant species can no longer be found in the wilds of Malaysia. Now, only three wild populations remain, all on the island of Sumatra.

According to a new report by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, no Sumatran rhinos have been spotted on the Malay Peninsula since 2007 -- aside from two females, which were captured and transported to a captive breeding program.

There are now fewer than 100 wild Sumatran rhinos in Indonesia, researchers report.

"It is vital for the survival of the species that all remaining Sumatran rhinos are viewed as a metapopulation, meaning that all are managed in a single program across national and international borders in order to maximize overall birth rate," Rasmus Gren Havmoller, a researcher at Copenhagen's Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, explained in a press release. "This includes the individuals currently held in captivity."

Havmoller is the lead author of a new report on the health of the Sumatran rhino, published in Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation...

UPI, Updated: Aug. 25, 2015 at 3:42 PM
Sumatran rhino no longer found in Malaysia;
"Serious effort by the government of Indonesia should be put to strengthen rhino protection," researchers say.
By Brooks Hays

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China and US

During the dark days of World War II, American pilots provided hope, grit, military support and brotherhood to the Chinese people battling the scourge of an overwhelming, often brutal invasion. The pilots in P-40 “Flying Tigers” and their counterparts flying cargo supply missions over the Burma hump showcased in deeds what American spirit is often about − helping a friend in need as allies to defeat evil.

It was a remarkable moment in U.S.-Chinese relations. A we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, we should be demonstrably mindful of what bold presidential leadership achieved for the world then and what China and the United States can achieve today with similar leadership. There is no reason our nations cannot once again look at today’s challenges and find ways to conquer them by working together − to fly “over the hump” once again to victory...

My grandfather, Gen. Claire L. Chennault, revitalized a defeated Chinese air force and defended China’s skies with his Flying Tigers. Chennault and his American Volunteer Group were instrumental in weakening Japanese forces and saving millions of Chinese people in World War II.

Along with American cargo pilots, my grandfather and the Flying Tigers continued what had been decades of respectful, fraternal cooperation and friendship between Americans and Chinese. Officially known as the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in 194142, the Flying Tigers comprised pilots from the United States Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine Corps, recruited under clear authority from President Franklin Roosevelt to save lives and provide humanitarian and military decisiveness. The shark-faced nose art of the Flying Tigers remains among the most recognizable image of any individual combat aircraft or unit of World War II.

The Tigers first saw combat on Dec. 20, 1941. They destroyed 299 enemy aircraft while losing only 12 pilots. Chewing gum and tape held the planes together and my grandfather’s tactical innovations kept them victorious in the skies. They were usually outnumbered at least 10 to one and never beaten in battle...

Although my grandfather died in 1958, his legacy still shows a path to better understanding to our two countries. Diplomacy takes many forms. Ordinary citizens continue to strengthen U.S.-China relations by building on the goodwill left by the Flying Tigers. Today, more Americans and Chinese are traveling between the two countries and study each other’s language. This a bond with the power to transcend differences between our two countries...

The Washington Post, Published: Monday, August 24, 2015
Recalling the heroics of the Flying Tigers;
The U.S. and China were war allies 70 years ago

Outgoing U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Jon Greenert said that this Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, is “very interested in RIMPAC 2016,” Defense News reported. Greenert spoke with Wu for 90 minutes in a video call on Tuesday morning, then recounted parts of that conversation at a Washington, D.C. luncheon hosted by the Mine Warfare Association, the Surface Navy Association GWC, Association of Naval Aviation, and the Submarine League...

The U.S.-China military-to-military relationship is a complex one. On the one hand, the two militaries focus on each other as potential enemies. The U.S. Department of Defense is reportedly pushing for a stronger military response to China’s island-building in the South China Sea, including patrols within the 12 nautical mile zone of the artificial islands.

On the other hand, however, the mil-to-mil relationship has actually (if quietly) made positive strides over the last four years. Regular high-level military contacts between the two sides have increased and stabilized. Wu and Greenert’s conversation on Tuesday was itself a sign of increased communication between the U.S. and Chinese armed forces. The call was the second of a series of such video teleconference calls, which are scheduled to take place quarterly. The previous call was in late April.

Most notably, last year the U.S. and China agreed to a code of conduct that governs unexpected encounters between navies. The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), spearheaded by a joint U.S.-Chinese effort, was signed by 21 Pacific countries in April 2014. CUES provides instructions for how sailors should respond when encountering another naval vessel in international waters. Both sides are interested in creating a similar code to govern unplanned aerial encounters.

Greenert said the CUES agreement was a positive step: “We think we’re on the right track.” In fact, he suggested expanding the agreement to cover coast guards as well – a crucial step, as China’s Coast Guard (not its navy) is largely responsible for patrolling disputed areas in the South and East China Seas. Greenert acknowledged that “the interactions that take place in the South China Sea are predominantly [with] Chinese Coast Guard ships… the gray hulls [the navies], we’re getting along just fine. You others, you ought to really get involved in this.”

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, also recently spoke of U.S. interest in pursuing a code of conduct with the Chinese Coast Guard. “Many of the encounters at sea that my naval ships have are as frequent with the Chinese Coast Guard − and other coast guards − as it is with the Chinese navy ships,” Swift said.

The Diplomat, Published: August 27, 2015
US Admiral: China 'Very Interested' in RIMPAC 2016;
China and America’s top naval leaders have a wish-list for the relationship.
By Shannon Tiezzi

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, came to Malaysia and said in Kuala Lumpur which Mr Yahho reported already in his Blog as Diary:

Swift praised Malaysia for being open to the idea of having multilateral naval exercises in the regaion.

"We continue to have robust dialogue with the Malaysian navy, and of courtse, this is a decision for the Malaysian government as to how they want to expand to multilateral exercises.

"Of all the countries in the region, Malaysian is among one of the most open to this idea, which I think is very important to continue to ensure that we can react together when a crisis occurs," he said.

Read more: New Straits Times, Published: Wednesday, August 26,2015
US Pacific Fleet set to woirk witrh MMEA

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naval drill

NEW DELHI: Cocking a snook at China, India will now include Japan for its forthcoming Malabar naval exercise with the US in the Bay of Bengal in October. But India will host a separate bilateral naval exercise with Australia, which too was keen on joining Malabar, in September.

The Indian defence establishment had kept Japan out of the initial planning for the 19th India-US Malabar naval combat exercise, leaving it to the PMO to take a decision on the matter. With the Modi government now giving the go-ahead, the trilateral planning conference for the Malabar exercise is to be held at Yokosuka towards end-July. "The formal invite to Japan is now being sent," said a source.

Just before the Malabar drill, India and Australia will also hold their first-ever bilateral naval exercise off Vizag in the Bay of Bengal from September 11 to 21. The exercise will see Australia participate with frigate HMAS Arunta, tanker HMAS Sirius, submarine HMAS Sheehan, with India fielding a destroyer, a frigate and a tanker, apart from aircraft and helicopters...

The Times of India, Updated: Jul 13, 2015, 04.58 AM IST
India shuns China, allows Japan in Malabar naval drill

India and Australia will focus on anti-submarine warfare in their first ever joint naval exercises, signalling a growing strategic relationship to counter China's increased activity in the Indian Ocean.

The war games starting September 11 off India's Visakhapatnam port in the Bay of Bengal will include exercises to protect a tanker from a hostile attack submarine. The area is near waters where China deployed a nuclear-powered submarine for the first time last year, as well as the Sri Lankan port where another unit surfaced twice. That caused a diplomatic uproar.

There's the "potential for increased security tensions in the Indian Ocean," said Captain Sheldon Williams, defense adviser at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. "We sit right in the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. We have a significant responsibility for its security. That's how we're looking at it now."

The drills -- first discussed a decade ago -- come as global powers vie for greater influence. The Indian Ocean's sea lanes account for nearly half of the world's container trade, including 80 per cent of China's oil imports...

Those moves are prodding Prime Minister Narendra Modi to align India more closely with the US and a "rules-based" approach for maritime security. That order's threatened by China's attempts to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea with the construction of artificial islands and runways.

While Australia doesn't take sides in the South China Sea dispute, it's concerned about China's land-reclamation activities, Williams said. "Certainly, the tension that that causes is not good for anyone, particularly the potential militarisation of those areas," he said...

stuff.co.nz, Last updated 13:09, August 26 2015
India-Australia drills targeting submarines expected to rattle China
By Natalie Obiko Pearson and N C Bipindra

The cabinet has approved an extension of its agreement with Singapore to participate in the annual Cobra Gold military exercise, while the United States insists on its strong commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.

Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which permits Singapore's participation, will be extended for another five years with the same regulations for participating countries. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsiwon, who proposed the extension, will sign the pact with Singapore, said Maj Gen Werachon.

As for US participation in this regional military exercise, the US Pacific Fleet commander, Adm Scott Swift, who is on a visit to Asia, said the US military is committed to the region, including taking part in military exercises.

Adm Swift declined to say whether the US will scale down its part in the 2016 Cobra Gold exercise, which is one of the world's largest multinational military drills, saying the decision was up to more senior officials, including the Pacific Command commander Admiral Harry Harris.

Bankok Post, Updated: 26 Aug 2015 at 06:09
Government to strike Cobra Gold pact
By Patsara Jikkham & Chananthorn Kamjan

The US Pacific Fleet (headquatered in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)is looking forward to cooperate with Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and police's Marine Unit, especially in the fight against piracy.

Read more: New Straits Times, Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2015
US Pcific Fleetset to work with MMEA

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class action status

Costco Wholesale Corp. was sued for selling farmed shrimp from Thailand, where slave labor and human trafficking in the fishing industry are widespread, and allegedly misleading U.S. consumers about it.

A California woman filed what may be the first such lawsuit against the retailer over liability for the Thai fishing industry. She cited state laws that bar companies from making false claims about illegal conduct in their supply chain, including human rights violations.

Costco’s purchases of Thailand’s farmed prawns, which are fed a diet of cheap fish caught at sea with unpaid, forced labor, helps prop up an industry whose practices are ignored by local authorities, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.

“Human suffering cannot be ignored to enhance a company’s economic bottom line,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Niall McCarthy, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, said in a statement. “California consumers are unknowingly supporting slave labor.

Richard Galanti, a spokesman for Issaquah, Washington-based Costco, said in a statement that the company has been working closely with the Thai government, the Thai fishing industry and other retailers “to address the issues that have surfaced” over the past year.

The cooperation will continue, Galanti said, and any consumers who are dissatisfied with a Costco product “can return the item for a full refund.”

Costco closed at $145.17, down 0.3 percent after falling as much as 1.4 percent in Nasdaq trading.

Bloomberg Business, Updated on August 20, 2015 − 4:28 AM HKT
Costco Sued Over Claims Shrimp Harvested With Slave Labor
By Erik Larson

Thailand is the world's third-biggest exporter of seafood, with annual sales of about $7.3 billion, according to the complaint. The Thai fishing industry, which extends into international waters around Indonesia, employs more than 650,000 people, mostly migrants who enter Thailand looking for work or who are taken there against their will, the lawyers said.

In its annual report examining human trafficking in 188 countries, the US State Department in July cited concerns about labour condittions in Thailand's fishing industry and faulted the Thai government's record in fighting exploitation.

In her lawsuit, Ms Sud cited news reports, documentaries and reports by London-based Environmental Justice Foundation. As a purchaser of shrimp from Costco, she seeks class action status on behalf of similar California consumers...

Bangkok Post, Updated: 20 Aug 2015 at 04:23
Costco sued over claims shrimp harvested with slave labour
By Bloomberg

Meanwhile a multinational company is suing a government...(*)

Santiago (AFP) - A tough anti-smoking bill is trying to get nicotine-hooked Chile to kick the habit, but has provoked a backlash from the powerful tobacco industry.

The bill would force cigarette makers to use identical packaging covered in chilling anti-smoking ads, limit smoking at beaches and parks to small, designated areas and -- most infuriatingly for the tobacco industry -- ban menthol cigarettes, the flavor of choice for 40 percent of Chilean smokers.

Chile already banned smoking in restaurants, bars, cinemas and the like in 2013.

The new legislation -- which has passed the Chilean Senate and is currently before the lower house -- seeks to tighten the rules.

Chile has the highest percentage of smokers of any country in Latin America: 28 percent of adults smoke at least once a day, according to the World Health Organization.

In this country of some 18 million, some 46 people die here every day of smoking-related illnesses, health officials say.

But the country is also home to a $2-billion tobacco industry that directly or indirectly creates some 15,000 jobs, according to the National Agriculture Society.

The proposed law has drawn a bitter reaction from British American Tobacco (BAT), the London-based multinational cigarette giant, which sells 13 billion cigarettes a year in Chile -- 90 percent of the local market.

"If they pass the bill as it stands today, we'll close our factory," said Carlos Lopez, head of corporate affairs for BAT Chile.

He slammed the bill's "disproportionate" and "often illegal" provisions on generic packaging and the "scientifically unfounded" ban on menthol.

BAT warns the measures would fuel a thriving black market, which it claims has already expanded by 400 percent in the past five years...

...Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, a cancer doctor, was the region's trailblazer.

In 2006, he signed a tough anti-smoking law that included Latin America's first ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces.

The move won his government plaudits from public health officials worldwide, but earned the small South American country the wrath of big tobacco.

Multinational tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for $25 million in an ongoing case, alleging the legislation violates an investment treaty with Switzerland.

Yahoo News, Updated: August 19, 2015 2:29 AM
Chile anti-smoking bill has tobacco industry on edge
By Giovanna Fleitas

Colville people join nation-wide protests against the TPPA (**)

They are concerned that under the TPPA and its dispute provisions, a NZ government could be sued by multinational mining companies, just as the multinational mining company, Oceania Gold is currently suing El Salvador.

As the banner says, "if the TPP trade deal is so good, why the secrecy?"

SCOOP (new Zealand), Updated: Sunday, 16 August 2015, 10:52 am
Colville people join nation-wide protests against the TPPA
By Stephanie McKee

Stuff.co.nz, Last updated 19:21, August 15 2015
Thousands march against TPP trade agreement

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singing birds

FRASER’S HILL: The number of exotic and colourful migratory birds here is on the decline and concerted efforts must be made to lure them back.

Among the main causes of lesser birds being sighted in the highlands, also known as “Little England” are weather change and loss of feeding habitat.

Malaysia Nature Society president Henry Goh said based on feedback from ardent birders, less birds were observed during the annual migratory season.

Goh said plans were in the pipeline to carry out a bird count exercise with the support of Tourism Malaysia and Wildlife and National Parks Department.

“It has been many years since efforts to record the number of migratory bird species was conducted.

“We need a comparative study and hope it can be done with financial support from the authorities.

“The outcome of the study will provide an insight on the current situation of the bird population, the existence of new species or the reduction of existing ones,” he told StarMetro.

Goh said different species of birds feed on different kinds of food and a depletion in the source of food would result in a drop in sightings.

He said there must be awareness, public education and long-term strategies on the need to fell less trees and plant more to preserve the natural surroundings.

“Otherwise, Fraser’s Hill will lose its attraction as a renowned highlands paradise to more than 260 species of wild birds, including some rare and endangered species.

“There will be a chain effect as tourists and keen birders from other countries will stop coming,” he said.

On an earlier proposal to build a cable car system at the highlands, Goh said it was not feasible and that the society had also strongly opposed a similar project in Bukit Larut.

He said in any hillslope development, large tract of forests would need to be cleared and it would affect the eco-system and natural habitat.

“The onus is on us to maintain and preserve Mother Nature for our future generations,” he said.

Past records showed 263 species of birds have been sighted in the mountainous tropical forests of Fraser’s Hill.

Among the most common are the mountain imperial pigeon, silver-eared mesia, mountain tailorbird, mountain fulvetta, great hornbill, long tailed sibia, broadbill, black headed bulbul, crimson-breasted wood patridge, small streaked spider hunter and chestnut-capped laughing thrush.

These migratory species fly across from northern Siberia and islands north of Japan to seek new feeding grounds and to escape the freezing winter up north.

They then migrate south to Australia and New Zealand before flying back home to the north between the month of March and April.

The Star, Published: Published: Thursday June 25, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Loss of habitat main cause of decline in migratory birds
By Simon Khoo

I REFER to the article by Simon Khoo, “Loss of habitat main cause of decline in migratory birds” (The Star, June 25) and I wish to highlight that this issue is not confined to Fraser’s Hill.

A recent bird-watching trip to Genting Highlands (*) revealed a similar situation. Dozens of construction and development projects are currently in full swing in Genting Highlands, some of which may have already caused irreparable ecological damage to important bird habitats. Two of the most important birding areas affected are the famed Ulu Kali Road near the Telecoms station and the Awana Old Pump House Road.

At Ulu Kali, construction of a resort complex is on-going right inside bird habitats. Every day, a non-stop stream of foreign construction workers housed nearby use Ulu Kali Road as a short-cut to the construction site. This plus the incessant construction noises are causing untold distress to birds foraging in the area and also disrupting the activity of bird tourists in the vicinity. The workers are suspected to be mostly illegal foreigners.

At the Old Pump House Road, a large area of virgin forest at high ground has been cleared to make way for a construction project. The irony is there is a signboard erected next to this area which clearly states that it is an important bird area (IBA) site. It was declared an IBA in 2010 by the then Deputy Tourism Minister. Underneath the signboard, it is clearly written “IBA are sites of international importance for conserving birds and other biodiversity.”

It seems the relevant ministries, state government and local authorities in charge of the various portfolios in Genting Highlands are either not committed to or know next to nothing about the need to preserve the natural environment, ecology and biodiversity of the area.

We believe most of them do not know the locations of IBAs throughout the country, much less the current state of these places.

Due to greed, ecologically-ignorant bureaucrats and possibly corrupt authorities, Genting Highlands will suffer the same fate as Cameron Highlands where more than 50% of the forests have been decimated.

No wonder nature lovers in this country often like to crack this joke: “See them before they disappear forever from this country.”

To check the impending ecological disaster in Genting Highlands, the relevant state and local authorities must stop all further development there and impose a stop-work order on all on-going large-scale construction.

All forest areas close to or adjacent to wildlife/ bird habitats such as Ulu Kali and Awana Old Pump House Road must be acquired and gazetted as permanent forest reserves. The wildlife/ bird habitat at Bukit Tinggi Berjaya Hill Resort should also be gazetted. These precious natural assets belong to all Malaysians.

Letter to The Star, Published: Friday August 21, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Protect threatened birding areas

Mr Yahho is always enjoying the pretty singing birds, Golden Oriole, twice a day in the garden. They like very, very much of the tropical tree of rambutan.

Mr Yahhoo was again in the corner of Town Hall, Penang to attend the program organized by "Free tree Society" on Sunday 23 August, 2015. Inside the Hall he could watch the very, very interesting video without taking a short nap!

In this article, I want to discuss the most mind-blowing scientific video I have ever seen. On Veritasium, Derek Muller explored the mystery of tree height:

The Amazing Physics of Water in Trees

The Most Amazing Thing About Trees

GEORGE TOWN: The Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur has given out 250 trees and shrubs to the public in conjunction with the George Town Festival.

Its patron Datin Sri Bettina Khan said the effort was to encourage more people to love trees and to protect them.

“Developers, for instance, are very quick to cut down trees when they have a project.

“If we care for trees and understand how long it takes for one to grow, we might not be so quick to chop trees down,” said Khan during a talk on tree-planting beside the Town Hall near the Esplanade here yesterday.

She added that instead of just buying trees and shrubs to be given out, the society propagates and grows tree seedlings in its own nursery in Kuala Lumpur.

“It is important to nurture a green attitude from young.

“We need to teach children that trees are important for our planet, our well-being and happiness,” Khan said.

Among the plants that were given away were herbs, flowering shrubs, trees and ornamental plants.

The Star, Published: Monday August 24, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Free trees and shrubs for a greener Penang

Mr Yahho has got there 2 free giveaway; one tamarind tree and one petunia plant.

The fun never stops at Genting, City of Entertainment, perched on the top of cool, breezy Genting Highlands. One big attraction in Genting is the cool weather. Because of the 2,000m altitude, Malaysians like to visit just to enjoy the 'European' weather!

In the evening, there is spectacular entertainment at the Genting International Showroom or Pavilion, be it a thrilling magic show or an ice-skating extravaganza. There are also opportunities to go shopping at First World Plaza, visit the indoor and outdoor theme parks and feast on a wide range of delicious food at the many restaurants.

One of the most popular attractions is the casino, the only one in Malaysia.

Note: Genting Outdoor Theme Park closed from 1st September 2013 for 3 years to make way for the world’s first Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park. Other rides and attractions located in First World Indoor Theme Park, SnowWorld, Sky Venture, Genting Bowl, Vision City and Funtasy World Video Games Park will remain opened as usual.

Genting Highlands

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July hottest month on record

Thailand's worst drought in a decade appears to have ended, but the damage could cast a shadow on the economy for months to come.

"Thailand has turned from the land of smiles to the land of frowns. Indeed, deep frowns that are unlikely to cheer anytime soon," ANZ economists said in a recent note.

The crippling dry weather that first emerged in late 2014 is no longer present in the country's 67 provinces, the deputy head of Thailand's disaster prevention department told Reuters last week. But with more than 40 percent of the country's population engaged in agriculture, the drought has exacerbated troubles in an economy already weighed down by slowing manufacturing, shrinking exports and rising external debt.

That's spurred sharp growth downgrades. Credit Suisse is now expecting 2015 economic growth at 2.5 percent on year, down from 3.1 percent previously, while JP Morgan is pricing in a 2.6 percent rise, down from a June estimate of 3.5 percent.

Thailand is one of the world's biggest rice exporters, but the drought has impacted 80 percent of rice farming land, possibly causing a 15-20 percent drop in output, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association.

"Not only is offseason [rice] crop production down, even planting of the main [rice] crop season will likely be delayed to August from June-July normally," said Credit Suisse research analyst Santitarn Sathirathai.

To be sure, agriculture as a whole accounts for less than 10 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP), but "the more significant drought-related risk to growth will be if water rationing also affects industrial areas, potentially curbing manufacturing output," warned Benjamin Shatil, a JPMorgan economist, in a report earlier this month.

"We believe the drought effect on lower farm output, led by a 30 percent drop in paddy output in January-May, worsened labor market conditions as farm employment shed 700,000 jobs in June," noted Citi economist Jun Trinidad.

The unfavorable weather also depresses agricultural incomes, which has a knock-on impact on consumer spending.

"Rural households are hit by a perfect storm in agriculture, drying up their cash flows when the debt burden remains elevated," said Credit Suisse's Santitarn, referring to the nine consecutive months of declines in international rice prices and the ruling military-backed government's efforts to halt subsidies.

"Although the government has stepped up to provide $1.8 billion worth of soft loans to support farmers, we suspect the damage has been done. We expect this to act as further headwinds to consumption going forward," Santitarn said.

Consumers certainly don't seem to be in the mood to open their wallets much...

CNBC, Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 8:13 PM ET
Thailand's economy isn't a Land of Smiles
By Nyshka Chandran

PETALING JAYA: The ongoing drought in Thailand will not affect Malaysia’s supply of imported rice.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said his ministry, which was monitoring the situation in Thailand, was prepared to ensure it would not affect the country’s stockpile.

“However, if the drought does affect our supply, we can direct Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) to look for other sources including from other Asean countries.

“So far, there is no issue of supply problem,” he said yesterday.

Malaysia imports about one million tonnes of rice yearly, of which between 80% and 90% come from Thailand. Malaysians are estimated to consume about 2.702 million tonnes of rice per year with Bernas importing about 30% to 40% the demand.

Following the rice crisis of 2008, the Government had increased the national stockpile level from 92,000 metric tonnes to 292,000 metric tonnes at any one time.

Thailand is currently battling drought in eight of 76 provinces, but 31 other provinces are faced with the risk of drought, Thailand’s Interior Ministry said.

The ongoing drought will cut major rice exporter Thailand’s 2015 off-season crop by over 30%, according to the latest report from Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics...

The Star, Published: Thursday June 25, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thai rice supply not affected

July was the hottest month on Earth since records began, averaging 16.6 C (61.9 F), according to US scientists.

That is 0.08 degrees higher than the previous record, set in July 1998 - a significant margin in weather records.

Scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a report that they expect 2015 to be the hottest year on record.

Nine of the 10 hottest months since records began in 1880 have occurred since 2005, they NOAA report said.

Scientists say global climate change and the impacts of the El Nino weather phenomenon are behind the record temperatures.

The first seven months of 2015 have already set an all-time temperature record for the period.

"The world is warming. It is continuing to warm. That is being shown time and time again in our data," said Jake Crouch, physical scientist at NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information.

"Now that we are fairly certain that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, it is time to start looking at what are the impacts of that? What does that mean for people on the ground?" Mr Crouch said...

BBC News, 20 August 2015
July was Earth's hottest month on record, NOAA says

TORONTO, Aug 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global food shortages will become three times more likely as a result of climate change and the international community needs to be ready to respond to price shocks to prevent civil unrest, a joint U.S.-British taskforce warned on Friday.

Rather than being a once-a-century event, severe production shocks, including food shortages, price spikes and market volatility, are likely to occur every 30 years by 2040, said the Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.

With the world's population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050 from 7.3 billion today, food production will need to increase by more than 60 percent and climate-linked market disruptions could lead to civil unrest, the report said.

"The climate is changing and weather records are being broken all the time," said David King, the UK foreign minister's Special Representative for Climate Change, in the report.

"The risks of an event are growing, and it could be unprecedented in scale and extent."

Globalization and new technologies have made the world's food system more efficient but it has also become less resilient to risks, said King.

Some of the major risks include a rapid rise in oil prices fuelling food costs, reduced export capacity in Brazil, the United States or the Black Sea region due to infrastructure weakness, and the possible depreciation of the U.S. dollar causing prices for dollar-listed commodities to spike.

Global food production is likely to be most impacted by extreme weather events in North and South America and Asia which produce most of the world's four major crops - maize, soybean, wheat and rice.

But such shocks in production or price hikes are likely to hit some of the world's poorest nations hardest such as import dependent countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

"In fragile political contexts where household food insecurity is high, civil unrest might spill over into violence or conflict," the report said.

Reuters, Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:29am EDT
Extreme weather poses risk of more food shortages, civil unrest - UK/US report
By Chris Arsenault

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man's inhumanity towards man

THE other day I was reading excerpts of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 days of Sodom, and frankly I couldn’t get very far. Granted, I have been able to sit through movies like Quills and Marat/Sade which attempted to give Sade’s perversions a philosophical defence, but when push comes to shove, there is a certain level of depravity that is simply unacceptable.

We can talk about technological advancements and the many wondrous ways in which mankind attempts to tame nature. We can even indulge ourselves in creating myths that massage our collective ego by assigning humanity an exalted role on this planet. But if you ask me, the tendency among some humans towards cruelty is what truly sets us apart from our fellow creatures.

No other species has the inclination towards cruelty that we have.

I mean think about it, what kind of mind can devise instruments of torture like the Iron Maiden, the rack or the thumbscrew?

Sometimes I walk around overwhelmed by a mixture of sadness and anger over all the cruelty that comes across our pages. UN peacekeepers accused of raping children in Central Africa, IS militants carrying out grisly beheadings with a casual air, unspeakable organised crime violence in Mexico, that vicious gang-rape in India, etc. Watching the world can become a soul-crushing endeavour, leaving you with a sense of helplessness.(*)

I’ve just read a CNN report about boys in Bangladesh.

Over the last few weeks, no less than four lads aged 10 to 17 have been found dead in Bangladesh, victims of torture. Among them was Mohammad Rakib, 12, who was tortured by his former employer because he took a job at another car repair shop. Robiul Awal, 10, was beaten and had his eyes gouged out after allegedly stealing fish.

Just think about that. A lot of times it’s easy not to empathise because it’s better to just block it out. Pretend our world isn’t as grotesque as all that...

The Star, Published: Sunday August 23, 2015 12:00:00 AM
Man’s inhumanity towards man;
The most evolved species on the planet is also the most cruel

At Parit Sulong, Johor, on January 16, 1942, 110 Australians, 35 Indian soldiers badly wounded were captured by Japanese Forces. On January 22, 1942, Japanese soldiers massacred, shot and beheaded all PoW. This puicture shows, blindfolded soldier about to be beheaded by Japanese sword.

J. J. Raj(JR) "The Struggle for Malaysian Independence" (2007, MPH) p.65

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deadly airstrike

Does Abe mull over anti-ISIS air strikes in Syria?

PERTH • Australia is considering a request from the United States to extend its air campaign against the ISIS militant organisation in Iraq to Syria, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

The United States has been leading a coalition of Western and Arab powers carrying out air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group since last year. Canberra - using six F/A18 combat jets and two support aircraft based in the United Arab Emirates - joined the raids in Iraq but not the strikes on targets in Syria, citing legal concerns.

Australia has also sent about 500 soldiers, including around 170 special forces troops, to serve as advisers in Iraq.

Mr Abbott said that while there were legal issues around any involvement in Syria, Australia would "carefully consider" the Pentagon's request and reveal its decision in a few weeks.

"We have a formal request from the Americans to extend our air strikes into Syria," the Prime Minister told reporters in the Western Australia capital of Perth.

"(ISIS) is a movement of almost incalculable, unfathomable evil and it's very important that Australia play its part in the campaign to disrupt, degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult," he said.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey hinted at expanding Australia's aerial role in the Middle East.

Mr Hockey, a member of Australia's national security committee, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the government has to do "whatever we can" to liberate the war-ravaged areas.

The US request, which local media reported was sent to the Australian embassy in Washington, DC, on Thursday, came as the Australian government said that it had stopped seven young suspected extremists from leaving the country this month to fight for militant groups in the Middle East.

Australia has become increasingly concerned about the number of citizens seeking to fight overseas.

Canberra estimates that around 120 of its nationals are still fighting in Iraq and Syria, while at least 30 have been killed. Another 160 sympathisers are believed to be supporting extremists from home.

Straits Times, Published: 22 August, 2015
Australia mulls over anti-ISIS air strikes in Syria

Cf: "Australian delay in US airstrike request could indicate division"

Australia has carried out its first air strike in Iraq, dropping two bombs on “an Isil facility”.

The Australian defence force confirmed on Thursday that it had attacked its first target overnight, in contrast to earlier missions in which weapons were not used.

“Two bombs were dropped from an F/A-18F Super Hornet on to an Isil facility,” the ADF statement said, using the government’s preferred acronym for Islamic State (Isis). “All aircraft exited the target area safely and returned to base. No further details of this mission are available at this time.”

Tony Abbott said he would not disclose operational details of the strike mission, but the Super Hornets were “doing the job that they were sent to Iraq to do”.

The prime minister, at a media conference in Sydney, declined to answer a specific question about any casualties.

He renewed his description of Isis as a “death cult” and said it was “important that Australia do what we can in conjunction with our friends and allies to help the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to help themselves”.

The Australian government last week formally approved the deployment of Super Hornets to Iraq to take part in US-led air strikes against Isis targets.

The confirmation of the first strikes on Thursday came a day after defence officials said RAAF aircraft had carried out three missions but had not fired on any targets.

In one case, Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Isis target when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials said at a media briefing on Wednesday.

Abbott told Fairfax radio on Thursday that the government was still working on the legal authority for 200 Australian special forces members to be deployed in Iraq...

The Guardian, Published: Thursday 9 October 2014 03.57 BST
First Australian air strike in Iraq bombs Isis target, says ADF;
'All aircraft exited the target area safely and returned to base,’ Australian defence force says
By Daniel Hurst and Katharine Murphy

U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have likely killed at least 459 civilians over the past year, a report by an independent monitoring group said Monday.

The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international airstrikes targeting the extremists, said it believed 57 specific strikes killed civilians and caused 48 suspected "friendly fire" deaths. It said the strikes have killed more than 15,000 Islamic State militants.

While Airwars noted the difficulty of verifying information in territory held by the IS group, which has kidnapped and killed journalists and activists, other groups have reported similar casualties from the U.S.-led airstrikes.

"Almost all claims of noncombatant deaths from alleged coalition strikes emerge within 24 hours − with graphic images of reported victims often widely disseminated," the report said...

In Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition includes France, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark and Canada. Jordan has also carried out airstrikes in Iraq as well as in Syria, although it has released no further information about the dates or locations of its attacks.

The coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Canada began its own strikes in April, while Britain carries out routine reconnaissance-only drone missions above Syria, and British pilots have carried out airstrikes while embedded with U.S. forces.

Airwars called for greater transparency and accountability from coalition members, since each is individually liable for any civilian deaths or injuries it causes.

"Only one of twelve coalition partners - Canada - has consistently stated in a timely fashion both where and when it carries out airstrikes," the report said...

Chicago Tribune, Published: August 3, 2015
Report: U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State have killed 459 civilians

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a country of lie

PRIME Minister Shinzo Abe failed to grasp the nettle when he delivered a much-touted address on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War 2.

As Abe pointed out, more than 80 per cent of today’s Japanese were born after the war and, as time goes on, it will be 100 per cent. It is indeed time to move on. However, ideally, moving on should come after a sense of closure. Unfortunately, Abe’s speech does not succeed in providing this. Instead, in some ways, it reopens old arguments, implying that Japan was not really responsible for its role in the conflict.

In trying to explain why Japan did what it did in the 1930s and 1940s, Abe described the impact on Japan of the Great Depression and said that the Japanese economy suffered a major blow as a result of economic blocs launched by western countries and their colonies.

In this respect, Abe’s speech is reminiscent of the narrative provided by the Yushukan war museum adjacent to the Yasukuni Shrine, which seeks to justify Japan’s role in the war.

Added to this is the failure to tackle head-on the “comfort women” issue, which has become a stain on Japan’s reputation around the world and a huge obstacle to repairing relations with South Korea whose president, Park Geun-hye, has called Abe’s speech “wanting” (*).

China, too, is clearly dissatisfied with its state media calling the speech “insincere”. Abe seemed to attempt to downplay China.

In expressing “deep remorse and heartfelt apology”, he listed “Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others”, putting China last, even though China suffered more casualties than any other country as a result of Japanese aggression.

Within Japan, Tomiichi Murayama, the Socialist who, during his one year as prime minister, issued the “Murayama Statement” on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War 2 expressing “deep remorse” for Japanese colonialism and aggression, also criticised Abe’s speech for what he considered to be its vagueness.

However, the Abe statement was very much in line with that issued by then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.

Koizumi, like Abe, belonged to the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and, during his five years in office, visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine each year.

In fact, there is little point for Japanese leaders to issue statements of remorse every 10 years, especially since, before long, all the people of Japan would have been born after the war. Those people are not responsible for the war and should not be expected to apologise for it.

China’s official position traditionally has been that the Japanese people, too, were victims of the war, with only a “small minority of militarists” being responsible. Thus, there is unlikely to be any insistence on new apologies from people who weren’t even born during the war.

However, this doesn’t mean that Japanese should not confront their history. In fact, being able to face history is crucial to Japan’s ability to cope with the present and the future, but this is very different from issuing ever more apologies...

New Straits Times, Published: Thursday, August 20, 2015
Time for Easy Asia nations to move on
By Frank Ching, a Hong Kong-based journalist
Read More: http://www.nst.com.my/node/96982

“LACK of sincerity” and “no direct apology” – such were the phrases plastered on the major newspapers in China a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

In his live televised speech, Abe said Japan had “repeatedly express-ed feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for the “immea-surable damage and suffering” Japan had caused during the war, adding that the past official mea culpa would remain “unsha-kable”.

While Washington welcomed Abe’s remark, critics in China were quick to point out that Abe did not issue a fresh apology of his own, labelling his apology as “vague”, “half-hearted” and “watered-down”.

Terming it “Abapology”, China’s official news agency Xinhua said Abe’s apology could not be taken seriously.

According to Xinhua, the Japanese leader has a deep reluctance to face up to Japan’s past brutal occupation. It lashed out at Abe for not “seriously reflecting on the past in order to usher Japan into a world-assuring future”.

Xinhua, in another commentary, implied that the issue is far from settled without a forthright reckoning of Japan’s war atrocities: “Abe seemed to say that his once-for-all apology can close the page of history.

“However, those countries which suffered from Japan’s aggression would never forget the dark period of history, as the Japanese would always remember the horrific scenes of A-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

State-owned English newspaper China Daily also forecasted that East Asia would “continue to struggle in the long shadow of history” and that real reconciliation could only be achieved should Abe act sincerely.

“Local media carrying views that are in line with the tone of the Chinese Foreign Ministry is a common phenomenon,” said Feng Wei, an expert on Japanese affairs at Fudan University.

“As long as the sentiments are anti-Japan, they are safe.”

When all the bashing and tongue-lashing subside until ano-ther remark inflames feelings in China again, where should China go from here?
On Sept 3, China will commemorate the end of World War II with a military parade, an event widely interpreted as a jab at Japan.

Invitations have already been sent out to “relevant countries”. Rehearsals are going on full force while restrictions on aerial activities and traffic movement have been put in place.

There is also talk that Abe is mulling a visit to China – but is likely to skip the anti-Fascist event – although Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has refuted such plans.

Quoting sources, Mainichi Shim-bun reported that the Chinese go-vernment had agreed to host Abe on Sept 3 afternoon.

“His visit will be meaningless (if he misses the anti-Fascist parade),” Gao said.

With sensitivity surrounding the parade, the presence – or absence – of top foreign leaders on the stage with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the parade will offer clues on the complex diplomacy between China and other countries.

The Star, Published: Friday August 21, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
After the ‘Abapology’, what next?
By Tho Xin Yi, columnist

However...again and again...One-man-show seems to be continued with his wife's visit to war shrine which irks China...again and again...

China on Friday hit out at Japan after the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, saying the country should "deeply reflect" on its history of aggression.

Akie Abe on Tuesday visited the shrine in central Tokyo that honours the memory of Japan's war dead since the 19th century, including more than a dozen war criminals convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after the war.

In a one sentence reaction, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Japan has failed to come to terms with its past.

"Japan should earnestly look squarely at its past history of aggression and deeply reflect on it, thoroughly separate itself from the militarism of the time, make more efforts that will help enhance mutual trust and achieve reconciliation with neighbouring countries in Asia," she said in remarks posted on the foreign ministry website.

Abe posted photos on her Facebook page Tuesday following the visit to the shrine.

"I feel different about Yasukuni after a visit to Chiran," she wrote, referring to a base for World War II "kamikaze", or suicide mission, pilots.

Shinzo Abe stayed away from Yasukuni himself but a few members of his Cabinet visited on Saturday, the 70th anniversary of Japan's WWII surrender.

A day earlier he had issued a closely watched statement on the war, which China and South Korea said did not amount to a proper apology for Tokyo's aggression.

Views of the war and its causes, as well as a maritime territorial dispute that has intensified in recent years have served as major impediments to normal relations between China and Japan -- Asia's two biggest economies.

Japan's first lady remains largely in the shadows of public life, but has openly disagreed with her husband on certain policy issues in the past, including his pro-nuclear energy stance after the Fukushima crisis.

AFP, Updated: 23 hours ago
China slams Japan after Abe's wife visits war shrine

Comment from a reader: Abe is playing their game again to fool the world. They read out statement of so called apology for what they deny. The minute he read out the statement, he sent his wife to worship the war criminals who were hanged in Tokyo. He held a TV apology show with some stupid US POW. There is no mention of compensation. It is only for show. No one ever gets any compensation from the murderers. Germany never has any TV show. They compensated huge amount of money to their victim. They don't need TV show. It is the Japanese who tell lies and change the history need TV show to fool the world. It is a country of lie. They killl 2000 whales for delicatessen but said they are for research. They sell arms to fund their military but they tell the world they are selling arm for world peace.

Read more: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/china-slams-japan-abes-wife-visits-war-shrine-035858188.html

Seoul (AFP) - An elderly South Korean man died from his injuries Friday, nine days after setting himself on fire to protest Japan's forced recruitment of sex slaves for military brothels during World War II.

Doctors treating Choi Hyun-Yul, 81, said his condition had deteriorated rapidly due to blood poisoning.

Choi set himself alight during a rally by some 1,000 protestors outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on August 12, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Choi had been a regular at the monthly protests outside the embassy to demand reparations for so-called "comfort women" -- an extremely emotive issue in South Korea where fewer than 50 of the thousands of women coerced into prostitution remain alive.

Japan says the issue was settled in the 1965 bilateral agreement that restored diplomatic ties between the two nations, which saw Tokyo make a total payment of $800 million in grants or loans to its former colony.

Self-immolation is not that rare a form of protest in South Korea and was particularly common during the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s and early-90s, when a number of student activists set themselves on fire during public demonstrations.

The last such protest outside the Japanese embassy was in 2005, when a 54-year-old man set himself on fire during a protest over Japan's claim to a set of South Korean-controlled islets in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).

August 21, 2015, 6:21 pm

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wasting taxpayers’ money

US$1.5bil will be spent to grow oil palm on 2 million ha in India, the size of New Jersey...

Such a huge amount (*)! However, please read the following 3 articles related to Tokyo which wretles with one of the world's biggest national debts:

For the first time, the world is eating more fish from farms than from the open sea, spurring billions of dollars of takeovers as one of the largest food companies seeks to capitalize on rising demand.

The latest buyer to enter the fray is Cargill Inc., the world’s biggest grain trader and a meat supplier, which said Monday it agreed to acquire Norwegian salmon-feed business EWOS Holding AS for $1.5 billion.

Fish consumption is growing at a faster pace than beef, pork and poultry, driven by an expanding, increasingly prosperous global population that recognizes the health benefits of eating seafood. Demand is forecast by the United Nations to outstrip supply in coming years. Wild fish aren’t going to fill the gap, and that leaves farming in lakes and coastal waters -- also known as aquaculture -- to make up the shortfall.

“We can expect that large companies active in commodities, animal proteins and life sciences will be considering this industry and how they can play a role in the growth of what some call the Blue Revolution, the growth of marine farming of food and feed,” Gorjan Nikolik, a Rabobank International seafood-industry analyst, said by phone from Utrecht, the Netherlands.

M&A Rush
The M&A rush has so far seen the $4 billion takeover of Dutch salmon-feed supplier Nutreco NV by SHV Holdings NV in April after Cargill withdrew a competing offer.

Mitsubishi Corp., Japan’s biggest trading house, bought Norwegian salmon-farmer Cermaq ASA for $1.4 billion in November.

The EWOS deal will turn Minneapolis-based Cargill into one of the top three aqua-feed producers, according to Nikolik.

The impact of a growing global population on protein consumption is daunting: Demand is set to grow by 70 percent by 2050, according to Sarena Lin, president of Cargill’s feed and nutrition business.

“Aquaculture has such development potential that you can see big farm feed organizations getting into the business as well now,” said Jacqueline Alder, an analyst at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. “The Cargill move might get the other feed companies thinking about moving into that as well.”

Global consumption of fish and seafood has expanded every year since at least 2000 and growth is expected to continue through 2019, with China being the biggest market, according to consumer research company Euromonitor International.

Rising Incomes
Rising incomes in emerging markets and the recognition of the health benefits will prompt fish consumption to increase to 261 million metric tons by 2030, according to the FAO. That will outstrip supplies estimated at 211 million tons, said the agency, which estimates consumption of farmed fish exceeded wild catches for the first time in 2014.

“As wealth grows in developing regions, fish and seafood is becoming more affordable,” said Anastasia Alieva, head of fresh food research at Euromonitor. “Fish and seafood is perceived as a healthier source of protein than meat in many countries,” especially where obesity is a concern, she said.

Global aquaculture production will need to rise as much as 5 percent a year through 2020 if supplies are to meet demand, according to Rabobank.

The industry has huge potential to expand, according to FAO’s Alder. Aquaculture’s share of fish production is expected to increase to 58 percent by 2030, she said.

“You’ve got lakes that you can expand into, you’ve got the ocean,” she said by phone from Rome. “Some of these other commodities like cattle, you’ve really started to hit some of the limits in terms of space.”

Bloomberg, Published: August 17,2015
Fish Farming Becomes Bigger Business Than the Open Sea
By Isis Almeida

Japan approved guidelines for its Olympic stadium on Friday, vowing to build an “athletes’ first” stadium as cheaply as possible and complete it by March 2020, a year later than planned, but without including any cost estimates or limits.

Japan scrapped its original plan for the national stadium last month in the face of widespread outrage after costs ballooned to £1.34bn ($2.1bn), nearly twice the original estimates – an unusual move for an Olympic host city this late in the process.

The guidelines approved by Shinzo Abe emphasised keeping costs as low as possible but included no upper limits or estimates. Plans are for management of the stadium to be handed over to a private firm once the Olympics are over.

“We should make a structure that will emotionally move people all over the world,” the prime minister said. “Of course, keeping costs down is a priority and we must make the best, realistic plan we can...

An international competition will be held to choose a design later this year, and a decision is due on both design and contractors in January 2016.

Japanese officials have acknowledged the design for the stadium by UK-based architect Zaha Hadid may have helped them win the Olympics but the futuristic plan – likened to a bicycle helmet – drew fire for its grandiose size and what critics said was a lack of fit with its site...

Japan pinned blame for the ballooning price tag on the stadium design but the architects countered that construction costs have been soaring in Tokyo, that they had made changes several times to bring costs down and that Japan’s decision to scrap the plans came without any warning.

Tokyo has already paid out around 6.2bn yen (£31.9m) to Hadid, other architects and construction firms, prompting Abe to apologise for wasting taxpayers’ money.

It will be Tokyo’s second time to host the Olympics but preparations have run into hurdles on a number of fronts, including costs and rolling back promises of having most venues within five miles of the Olympic Village.

Even the Olympic logo has become the focus of plagiarism accusations, which Japan and its designer deny.

The Guardian, Published: Friday 14 August 2015 12.43 BST
Completion of Japan’s Olympic Stadium put back to March 2020
By Reuters

Japan has purchased 5 V-22 Ospreys from Bell Helicopter and may buy up to 12 more.

The company announced the $332.5 million contract Tuesday. If Japan decides to buy 17 tilt-rotor aircraft, then the deal could be worth roughly $3 billion.

“The Bell Boeing team is honored to have Japan as the first international customer for the V-22 tilt-rotor,” Mitch Snyder, executive vice president of military business for Bell Helicopter, said in a statement, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday. “The distinct performance envelope of the V-22 will provide Japan with an ideal solution when the need arises.”

Many of the parts that will wind up in the aircraft will be made in the Fort Worth area and assembled in Amarillo, the Texas newspaper reported.

V-22 Ospreys are also used by the Marine Corps and the Air Force Special Operations Command.

The Washington Post, Published: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Japan boosts air-defense capabilities, buys five V-22 Ospreys from Bell Helicopter
By Douglas Ernst

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India to spend US$1.5bil on palm oil plan

India plans to spend $1.5 billion in the next three years to help farmers grow oil palm trees in an area the size of New Jersey, government sources said, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushing to make the nation self-sufficient in edible oils this decade.

Modi is targeting India's $10 billion import bill for edible oils, its third-highest overseas spend after oil and gold, and has already been considering buying oilseeds directly from farmers and boosting government support for growing rapeseed, soybeans and peanuts.

A successful Indian push into palm cultivation would drag on international markets for the commodity, hitting Indonesia and Malaysia as they are currently the only major growers of the crop.

"We've identified nine states with suitable climatic conditions but we were apprehensive that the long gestation period would dissuade farmers from adopting the crop," said one of the sources involved in the planning. He declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak with media.

"That's why we've decided to earmark 10,000 crore rupees ($1.53 billion) that will largely be spent on supporting the farmers."

Palm, the highest-yielding perennial edible oil crop, needs a fraction of the area used to grow other oilseeds, potentially attractive in a country like India where land is increasingly scarce as the population rockets.

But a gestation period of up to five years and laws limiting the size of each palm development have stymied previous efforts to switch to the crop, putting off local farmers as well as companies such as Ruchi Soya (RCSY.NS), Cargill and Bunge (BG.N).

However, the government hopes that its $1.5-billion backing will make the difference, with sources saying that direct support from Modi will also be key.

"It's a pity that we couldn't meet our earlier targets," said the first source. "But he fact that the prime minister is giving a lot of impetus due to unbridled edible oil imports, we're trying our best to make it happen this time."

The government is mostly targeting fallow farmland in coastal states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka to grow palm on 2 million hectares, which could produce 8 million tonnes of oil annually once the crop bears fruit in about five years, another government source said.

Food ministry spokesman N.C. Joshi declined to comment.

Indian consumption of vegetable oils has trebled over the last 20 years as the population grows and incomes rise, while output has increased by less than a third. That has forced it to become the world's biggest importer of edible oils, with palm oil accounting for 80 percent of that.

Annual edible oil imports have risen 12 times to 14.4 million tonnes per year, with the product used to make everything from bhajis and biryanis to potato chips and noodles...

Reuters, Updated: Tue Aug 18, 2015 3:12pm IST
Modi (*) to bet $1.5 billion on palm oil plan as imports surge
By Mayank Bhardwaj

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Drainage of peatlands to cultivate oil palm in Malaysia's Rajang Delta is causing land subsidence that will bring large-scale floods in coming decades, making the land unusable, a problem also expected to affect Indonesia, researchers warned.

Substantial areas of the river delta in Sarawak, eastern Malaysia, are already experiencing drainage problems, according to a study commissioned by Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based conservation group.

It predicted that 42 percent of the 850,000 hectares of coastal peatland would experience flooding in 25 years, rising to around 82 percent in 100 years.

The cause is massive conversion of peat swamp forests to agriculture, mainly oil palm plantations, with only 16 percent of Sarawak's natural peat forests remaining, said the study by research institute Deltares.

Wetlands International urged governments and businesses to stop the conversion of peat forests to agricultural or other use immediately, and promote peatland conservation and restoration.

"Current trends whereby vast areas of peatlands are opened up for drainage-based activities will render these areas unproductive and useless, and this will adversely impact communities, industries and biodiversity that rely on such areas for their very survival and existence," Lee Shin Shin, a technical officer with Wetlands International in Malaysia, said in a statement.

A growing number of multinational companies involved in the production, trade and use of palm oil - a cheap, edible oil - have promised not to develop oil palm plantations on peatlands, but the impact of those fledgling commitments remains unclear.

Peat soils are made up of 10 percent accumulated organic material (carbon) and 90 percent water. When water is drained from the soil, the carbon in it is turned into carbon dioxide and the climate-changing gas is emitted into the atmosphere.

The carbon loss reduces the peat volume and causes the soil to subside until it reaches sea or river levels, leading to flooding, Wetlands International said. Nyoman Suryadiputra, director of the group's Indonesia office, said the study results were relevant to Indonesia, which is experiencing the same patterns of peat swamp forest loss for oil palm and Acacia planting for pulp wood plantations.

"Thousands of square kilometers in Sumatra and Kalimantan may become flooded in the same way as the Rajang Delta, affecting millions of people who depend on these areas for their livelihoods," he said.

Wetlands International said measures used in developed countries to cope with soil subsidence, such as building dikes, were too costly and impractical for the two Southeast Asian nations, with their rural economies covering thousands of kilometers of coastline and rivers, and intense tropical rainfall.

But there are many crops that can be cultivated on peatlands without drainage, including more than 200 commercial local peat forest tree species such as Tengkawang, which yields an edible oil, and latex-producing Jelutung, Wetlands International said.

These could provide alternative, sustainable livelihood opportunities for local communities, but varieties would need to be improved and tested before they could be used on industrial plantations, it added.

Reuters, Updated: Mon Jul 6, 2015 1:14pm EDT
Oil palm plantations destroying SE Asia's peatlands
By Megan Rowling

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement global standards for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

It was formed in 2003 to address the negative social and environmental issues associated with palm oil production, such as deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and land grabs. It began with just 10 members but now has more than 1,300 members from 50 countries.

Members of the RSPO include environmental and social non-government organisations, such as WWF and Oxfam, as well as oil palm producers, palm oil processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and financial institutions.

All RSPO members have pledged to support the transformation of the global palm oil industry towards sustainability, and to set their own deadlines for taking action.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund)(**)
What is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Certified Sustainable Palm Oil?

Muslims fear rising tide of Hindu nationalism in Modi’s India;
Since India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year, the country's Muslims have expressed growing concerns about a spate of inflammatory statements made by Hindu nationalist leaders and activists.
In The Washington Post, Published: August 17

Q. What do the initials WWF stand for now and when did they change
A. Back when it was founded in 1961, WWF stood for the “World Wildlife Fund”.
However, as the organisation grew throughout the 70s and 80s, WWF began to expand its work to conserve the environment as a whole (reflecting the interdependence of all living things), rather than focusing on species in isolation. In 1986, WWF realised that our name no longer reflected the scope of our activities, and we changed our name to “World Wide Fund For Nature” in all countries except the United States and Canada. The resulting confusion and translation discrepancies across more than 15 languages led to the decision, in 2001, to adopt the original acronym as our one, global name.

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Chicken War With U.S.

HANOI, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- "It was such an harmonious combination of Vietnamese and Chinese traditional music instruments! The cultural features of each country were highlighted suitably and harmoniously," Nguyen Kim Oanh, an English teacher said after enjoying a performance of Vietnamese and Chinese artists here on Wednesday.

A Chinese-Vietnamese friendship concert was held in Vietnam's capital Hanoi Wednesday night, drawing the participation of artists from the two countries using their traditional music instruments.

"I do not know how long the artists of the two countries practiced together, but their performance was really stunning. I love Chinese music and hope that more programs of this kind will be held in the future," Nguyen Thanh Binh, a 40-year-old Vietnamese audience member told Xinhua.

"It was really a fabulous performance. There was a variety of music and the combination of the Chinese and Vietnamese musicians and singers was wonderful," Paul Lewis from America said.

Performances using the zither, erhu and panpipes from both countries as well as Vietnamese instruments made from bamboo wowed the Vietnamese, Chinese and foreign audiences with their various combinations.

"Art, music and culture are borderless. Through such kind of activity, people can listen to the music of other countries and understand each other through music, as music is the common language," said Dong Quang Vinh, a young Vietnamese music conductor and also director of "Suc Song Moi" bamboo ensemble of Vietnam.

"I love to mix cultural features of different countries and I feel very lucky having a chance to do so with Vietnamese and Chinese music," Vinh, who is art director of the program said, adding that artists of the two countries were very excited with the event and through music, could understand each other despite language differences...

The event was held as the two countries are celebrating the 65th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties and the 70th anniversary of the victory of the global war against Fascism.

Xinhua, English.news.cn, Updated: 2015-08-20 10:39:27
Fusion of traditional Vietnamese, Chinese musical instruments wows audiences

BANGKOK: People in Vietnam are hoping that Thailand will reconsider its plan to divert water from the Mekong – because it would seriously affect their ability to produce food.

The Mekong Delta is Vietnam’s most important agricultural area. Each year, the area produces the most rice and fruits in the country.

This region also nurtures many freshwater fish species, which are an important source of protein for people in the area.

However, this key food production could be jeopardised by large water management projects upriver, Vietnamese experts said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has voiced plans to use water from the Mekong and Salween rivers to fill dams that have run low because of drought and poor water management. But his remarks have caused shockwaves in the Mekong Delta, which would be directly affected if such a project was to go ahead.

Nguyen Huu Thien, a freelance expert on wetland ecology and natural resource conservation, criticised the idea.

He said taking a large amount of water out of an international river was like sucking the blood from a body and would surely hurt the livelihood of people downstream.

“I just heard of Thailand’s idea to divert water from the Mekong River. I still don’t have much information about the plan but I strongly oppose this idea, as a change in the amount of water in the river would definitely have an impact on the people who live in the Mekong Delta and who rely on the river,” Thien said.

Thien – who is based in Can Tho, a city in the delta – said extensive use of water upstream had already reduced the river’s flow.

“This had caused many problems such as greater saltwater intrusion, environmental degradation and drought. If Thailand’s idea is implemented, more severe impacts will follow.”

Ky Quang Vinh, director of Can Tho City Climate Change Coordi-nation Office, was similarly worried.

“The project would divert water from the river, which would decrease the amount of water in the delta, especially in the dry season, when the water level is normally low. This would directly impact farmers in the delta and thus the food basket of Vietnam,” he said.

The Star, Published: Wednesday August 19, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Don’t divert the Mekong, Viets plead with Thailand

Hanoi chicken farmer Nguyen Huu Tuyen blames inexpensive poultry imported from the U.S. for the loss of almost $14,000 this year.

Farmers such as Tuyen say the only way American companies can undercut Vietnamese poultry prices is if they export chicken at artificially low prices or ship damaged meat to the Southeast Asian country.

The chicken flap is a wake-up call for Vietnam as it embraces free trade agreements. Some sectors will be vulnerable to competition from foreign corporate giants benefiting from economies of scale and sophisticated supply chains. Vietnam, which announced a free trade agreement with the European Union Aug. 4 and signed one with South Korea in May, wants to be part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership now being negotiated.

“It drives home the impact of trade with the rest of the world for Vietnam,” Vu Tu Thanh, chief Vietnam representative of the U.S.-Asean Business Council, said by phone. “Many people are still unaware of what the free trade agreements will mean for the country and the economy.”
Vietnam expects exports to soar with the reduction of tariffs on products such as seafood, shoes and clothes once the TPP is signed.

The chicken controversy signals that some industries, including agriculture, automobiles and machinery, will not fare as well as others, said Fred Burke, managing partner of Baker & McKenzie (Vietnam) Ltd. in Ho Chi Minh City.

“It’s a good example of the difficulties Vietnamese, especially small household farms, will face, whether it’s chickens, beef or pigs,” he said by phone. “There will be a lot of competition.”

Vietnam’s trade and agriculture ministries are investigating complaints by the Southeastern Livestock Association, which says frozen U.S. chicken imports have caused $62.3 million in losses for its chicken breeders over the last 11 months, VnExpress online newspaper reported Aug. 14, citing Le Van Quyet, the group’s vice chairman.

Vietnam imported 45,651 metric tons of chicken, mostly thighs, from the U.S. in the first seven months of 2015, accounting for 49 percent of total meat imports in the period, the Ministry of Agriculture’s newspaper, Bao Nong Nghiep, reported Aug. 10.

“U.S. chicken meat sold in Vietnam that cheaply, I believe, is either low-quality due to being close to expiration dates or from bird-flu chickens,” Tuyen, owner of a 15,000-chicken farm in Hanoi’s Thanh Binh commune once known as northern Vietnam’s chicken capital, said by phone. “The government needs to take serious actions to save poultry farmers from dying.”

‘Distorted’ Facts
Vietnamese authorities are investigating a complaint by a domestic poultry association that frozen U.S. chicken is being sold in Vietnam for 91 cents per kilo (2.2 pounds), said Tong Xuan Chinh, deputy head of the livestock production department at the agriculture ministry. Production costs for the same type of chicken in Vietnam is $1.31-$1.36 a kilo, Chinh said.

U.S. companies don’t sell chicken in Vietnam for less than it does in America, said James Sumner, president of the Stone Mountain, Georgia-based USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

“It’s just trumped up allegations,” he said. “A lot of facts are getting distorted.”

U.S. breeders usually export leg quarters, which are not popular among U.S. consumers and sell for about half the price of chicken breast in supermarkets, Sumner said.

Cheaper Feed
U.S. farmers also pay less for animal feed than their Vietnamese counterparts, said Adam Sitkoff, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

“Vietnam chicken farmers have to pay more for their grains,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are more expensive here. Vietnam is not a cheap place except for labor.”

Vietnam’s livestock sector will struggle to compete with foreign companies, Nguyen Duc Thanh, head of the Vietnam Institution for Economic and Policy Research, said by phone. The sector’s weaknesses include heavy dependence on imported feed and seed, inadequate food safety and low productivity with about 50 percent of livestock coming from small family farms.

“Vietnam has been one of the most active countries in the world in negotiating and completing trade agreements,” Sitkoff said. “The more competition there is the more chance there is that someone who is not prepared will lose.”

Most U.S. imported chicken is bought by large companies, such as garment makers, to feed tens of thousands of employees in cafeterias, Thanh said. Vietnamese consumers prefer fresh chicken slaughtered shortly before meals over frozen poultry.

Vietnamese poultry farmers are looking for financial relief as they face increasing competition from imported beef and pork, he said.

“Because the U.S. is richer and its incomes are a lot higher than those of Vietnamese, it is believed it can’t have things cheaper than Vietnam,” Thanh said. “But that’s not the case.”

Bloomberg, Updated on August 17, 2015 − 3:37 PM HKT
Chicken War With U.S. Shows Free Trade Threat to Vietnam Farmers
By John Boudreau and Mai Ngoc Chau

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Malaysian women of substance

Comment by Elina Noor:

EXACTLY a week after Southeast Asian capitals marked Asean Day on Aug 8 to celebrate the establishment of an organisation founded to promote regional peace and stability, Northeast Asia observed a more sombre commemoration of a tragic period in history marked by destruction, decimation and devastation. This past weekend on Aug 15, 70 years ago, World War 2 (WW2) in Asia finally ground to a halt with Emperor Hirohito’s public declaration of Japan’s surrender.

It is a poignant juxtaposition of two halves of East Asia, both of which suffered immensely during the war but each of which has diverged in its treatment of history since. Whereas Southeast Asia seems to have forgiven the brutality of colonial Japan, even if it has not necessarily forgotten, China and Korea seem neither to have forgotten let alone forgiven. Northeast Asian hawks at the Track Two level have in fact excoriated Southeast Asia for moving past history with the reminder that no amount of overseas development assistance can whitewash Japan’s sins of its past.

No doubt, Northeast Asia paid a much heftier price during and after the war than Southeast Asia did. While the infamous Thai-Burma death railway was built using more than 200,000 forced labourers and allied prisoners of war under appalling conditions with nearly half having perished during construction, the Nanking massacre alone resulted in the deaths of up to 300,000 victims and the rape of 20,000 women.

Nearly every Malaysian of my generation will have had a parent or grandparent who endured the cruelty of Japanese occupation, if not perished because of it. I expect the same is true in other parts of Southeast Asia and to greater severity in China and Korea, whose women were ignominiously made to serve “comfort” and whose citizens were also subjected to heinous chemical and biological warfare experimentation on top of everything else...

Despite the horrific legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the numerous frameworks governing disarmament and non-proliferation, the number of states possessing nuclear weapons has de facto increased since WW2 with unequal regime observance among them. Despite the ravages of WW2, war broke out just five years later on the Korean Peninsula and tensions persist until today, on land across the demilitarised zone, in and around the Yellow Sea, even in cyberspace. Despite post-war countries having transformed into economic powerhouses, historical complexities continue to permeate ties. If anything, they have transmogrified into rising nationalism exacerbating prickly differences over sovereignty and territorial integrity issues in the East China Sea.

These territorial disputes are mirrored somewhat in the South China Sea, where Southeast Asian claimant states will have to resist power plays and spheres of influence while remaining as inclusive a region as possible...

New Straits Times, Published: 18 August 2015 at 12:00 PM
Post-war lesson for Southeast Asia
By Elina Noor, director of foreign policy and security studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/96657

Activity of Sheema Sen Gupta:

Chief, Child Protection Programme at UNICEF Somalia,

Please refer to the article by S. Indramalar about "Extending hope" in the Star, Published: Friday 14 August 2015 where she shares the challenges of protecting women and children in conflict-torn Somalia as Malaysian humanitarian worker.

When she arrived in Somalia for her tour of duty four years ago, Sheema Sen Gupta had had more than a decade’s experience as a child protection specialist with Unicef.

She’d worked in various countries like Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka where she had seen and dealt with the tragic consequences of natural calamities and conflicts.

But nothing prepared her for the brutalities that confronted her in Somalia.

“I arrived in Somalia in November 2011. On the day I arrived, (the jihadist group) Al-Shabaab, which had full control of South and South-Central Somalia, called an emergency meeting and banned 16 agencies from areas under their rule. These were, of course, the worst-affected areas. Unicef was among the 16.

“Somalia was going through a bad famine. It was so bad, populations were moving from drought-stricken areas to other parts of the country which were more accessible to aid. So we focused on the areas we could access like Mogadishu, which saw a large influx of Somalis.

“Many families became headed by women because the men went out to look for work and for food. As they moved towards Mogadishu, the women had to pass through various checkpoints manned by Al-Shabaab or clan militia. At every point, they had to ‘pay’ to get through. Payment wasn’t in the form of money – they had to leave their daughters behind or be raped by the militia before they could proceed.

“It was brutal, ugly and very dire,” recounts Sheema, who heads the Unicef child protection team in Somalia.

They got to work immediately. Within a month of her arrival, Sheema and her team started initiatives to help Somali women and children deal with rape and sexual abuse, reaching out to some 5,000 women and children.

“This was the tip of the iceberg. These were only the women and children we could access. There were so many more. In the last three years, we have provided services to some 15,000 women and children,” says Sheema...


Wan Naimah as Businesswoman:

Please refer to the article of "Spreading Wisdom and Good Fortune" in New Straits Times, Published: Tuesday August 18, 2015.

A mushroom cultivation project in Kuala Terengganu not pnly helps women earn a living but is also a catalyst for them to help others.

Datuk Siti Nurhaliza as a top vocalist in Malaysia:

Please refer to the article of "Thrill-seeking Siti" in New Straits Times, Published: Tuesday August 16, 2015.

Datuk Siti Nurhaliza recently had her first taste of dining in the sky - literally - hoisted 45m off the ground by a crane...her latest album, Siti Nurhaliza Unplugged, was released last month, July.

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Let history tell future

From Jakarta:
Jakarta (The Jakarta Post) : In celebration of the 70th year of Indonesia’s independence, the government is planning to produce a grand spectacle by sinking another batch of foreign fishing vessels.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s director-general for maritime and fisheries resources surveillance, Asep Burhanuddin, said his office was working together with the navy and the water police to prepare 37 fishing vessels that local courts had declared guilty of poaching or poaching-related offences in the country’s territorial waters.

“There will be a total of 37 ships ready for sinking across the country, comprising 20 from the ministry, 12 from the navy and another five that the water police have handed over to us,” Asep said yesterday.

Asep said the ministry planned to host an event around the simultaneous ship-sinking tomorrow, a day after the nation’s 70th independence day, which is celebrated on Aug 17.

Asep said this was to ensure that the vessel sinking would not disrupt the celebratory nature of the national day ceremonies today.

Last week, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti jokingly said that authorities should sink 70 vessels to mark the country’s 70 years of independence.

The ministry also plans to produce a live broadcast of the sinking event tomorrow morning.

For the event, 14 vessels will be sunk in Pontianak, West Kali-mantan, eight in Bitung, Manado, North Sulawesi, five in Ranai, Riau Islands, four from Tarakan, North Kalimantan, three in Belawan, North Sumatra and three from Tarempa in the Anambas islands, near the Malaysian peninsula.

Of the 37 vessels, 17 were from Vietnam, 11 from the Philippines, five from Thailand and two from Malaysia. The ministry has already sent notices through the Foreign Ministry, which will then be forwarded to the respective countries of the vessels.

Two Indonesian boats will also be demolished, after being found guilty of frequent use of unsustainable fishing equipment.

Furthermore, a number of Chinese vessels will be absent from the line-up due to unresolved legal processes.

The Star, Published: Monday August 17, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Indonesia to sink seized ships

From Singapore:
SINGAPORE, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- A 70-meter-high white monument with four identical pillars, representing the shared experiences and unity of Singapore's four major races - Chinese, Eurasian, Indian and Malay - stands on Beach Road in the downtown area of the city state.

It is the Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation built in memory of the civilians killed by the Japanese troops in Singapore during World War II.

It is also where a new documentary begins to trace the atrocities of the Japanese invaders during their three and a half year occupation from Feb. 15, 1942.

An estimated 50,000 local civilians were said to have been killed by the Japanese during the occupation years.

The 45-minute documentary, Singapore 1942, was debuted in the auditorium of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) building on Saturday, as one of the commemorative events to mark the end of World War II 70 years ago.

Singapore 1942, shot by the World War II History Research Association, is the first ever documentary which tells the Japanese barbarities via historical materials and interviews with war survivors and scholars who specialize in that period of Singapore history.

The documentary focuses on Dalforce, or the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army, which carried out a guerrilla war against the Japanese forces, and the Sook Ching Massacre - mass killings of whoever the Japanese military regarded as anti-Japanese elements in Singapore.

Dalforce fought bloody battles in western Singapore with the Japanese forces, although their weapons were backward and the team was lack of training.

During the operation of Sook Ching, which means "purge through purification" in Chinese, to eliminate anti-Japanese elements, the Japanese slaughtered some 50,000 civilians in batches. The massacre, together Nanjing Massacre and Manila Massacre, has been known as the three holocausts committed by the Japanese forces during World War II.

In the 1960s, the remains of the Sook Ching Massacre victims were found and the SCCCI lost no time to form a special team to collect the remains and related information. After four years of efforts, the Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation finally was erected in 1967. Since then, Singaporeans from all walks of life began an annual commemoration in front of it...

Xinhua, English.news.cn 2015-08-16 13:27:15
Let history tell future - Singapore commemorates 70th anniversary of WWII

From Ha Noi:
Ha Noi (Cihan/Xinhua) : Military parade will be held in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Sept. 2, 2015 (*) to mark the 70th anniversary of the August Revolution and the National Day of the country, said organizers at a press conference here on Wednesday.

According to a press release on commemorative activities of the 70th anniversary of the August Revolution and the National Day, the military parade will involve people's armed forces (including army, public security officers, and militias) as well as civilians (such as war veterans, workers, farmers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and ethnic minorities).

In addition to military parade, a series of activities will be organized across the country to mark such important events, including art performances, exhibition of books and materials on the August Revolution, a national film festival week, publication of stamps collection on the theme as well as a photo book on 70 years of national construction and development of Vietnam, among others, said the press release.

Cihan News Agency, 12.08.2015 11:37:38
Vietnam to hold military parade to mark 70th anni. of National Day

After Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 the Japanese finally surrendered on 14 August following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The next day, 15 August, was celebrated as Victory over Japan (VJ) Day and the nation formally surrendered on 2 September at a ceremony on board USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

The Guardian, Updated: Sunday 9 August 2015 11.46 BST
Public encouraged to attend VJ Day events despite report of Isis plot;
Mail on Sunday reports British jihadis planning to target Queen at celebrations to mark second world war anniversary in plot orchestrated from Syria
By Press Association

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VJ Day

Their limbs may have grown older and more weary over the years, their steps slower, but there was no disguising the fierce pride and gratitude of the men and women who came to remember those they left behind.

Led by the pipes and drums of the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, hundreds of VJ veterans made their way along Whitehall yesterday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender which finally brought about the end of World War II.

They had come to be know as 'the forgotten army’ – far from home, the war against Hitler won three months earlier – so it must have been with no small some sense of gratification that they passed crowds hundreds strong lining the route, cheering and applauding them on as they made their way through Parliament Square to a reception in the gardens of Westminster Abbey.

Those who took part in the VJ70 parade included some of the surviving soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians captured when the Japanese overran swathes of south east Asia in 1941, survivors of a conflict which saw thousands of their comrades die far from home...

* Britain suffered 90,332 casualties in the war against Japan of whom 29,968 died - 12,433 whilst prisoners of war.
* 100,000 men from Britain fought in Burma, as did 119,000 soldiers from her East and West African colonies...

The Telegraph, 7:00PM BST 15 Aug 2015
Britain remembers VJ Day 70 years on;
Thousands are expected to take part in this weekend's events to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day
By Gregory Walton

The Queen led ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of VJ Day today as hundreds of war veterans gathered in London for the historic occasion.

Britain paused to remember the millions killed during the Second World War, which raged on for months in the Pacific after Allied Victory in Europe.

As royals and politicians mingled with guests at ceremonies near Buckingham Palace, Navy veteran Jim Booth, 94, was seen dancing with the Duchess of Cornwall.

Camilla beamed with joy as she took to the floor with the war hero, from Taunton, Somerset, during a garden party which followed a service and wreath-laying ceremony at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church near Trafalgar Square.

Earlier veterans of the conflict and former prisoners of war joined the emotional ceremonies before walking through central London towards Westminster Abbey in a special parade.

Daily Mail, Updated: 21:06 GMT, 15 August 2015
Victory dance: Camilla takes to the floor with Navy veteran, 94, as nation celebrates the 70th anniversary of VJ Day
By Lydia Willgress and Ollie Gillman for MailOnline
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3199133/Queen-leads-ceremonies-marking-70th-anniversary-victory-Japan-veterans-parade-London.html

Britain's Queen Elizabeth joined the celebrations in London Saturday in observance of the 70th anniversary of V-J Day. That was the day in 1945 when Japan announced it was surrendering to the Allies, ending World War II.

In the U.S., V-J Day is officially observed on Sept. 2, the day Japan actually signed its unconditional surrender. But the anniversary was marked Friday in New York as couples gathered in Times Square at a 25-foot statue of a sailor kissing a nurse, based on the iconic photograph taken all those years ago.

CBS News' Michelle Miller spoke with the original couple in 2012, who told her all about that kiss.

It is one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century, the moment Americans learned of a Japanese surrender.

George Mendonsa said he's the sailor in the photograph that would come to symbolize the end of World War II and Greta Friedman the "nurse" in white.

"It was the moment that you come back from the Pacific, and finally the war ends," Mendonsa said.

"I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip," Friedman said.

But Mendonsa said he didn't kiss her for long.

As the perfect strangers locked lips, world famous photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped four pictures in just 10 seconds. CBS News reunited George and Greta three years ago at the spot of their kiss for just the second time since that day in 1945.

"The excitement of the war bein' over, plus I had a few drinks," Mendonsa said. "So when I saw the nurse I grabbed her, and I kissed her."

George did not know the picture had been taken, but Greta recognized herself.

Greta was a dental assistant on break, heading to Times Square to verify rumors of the war's end. George, a first class sailor in the Navy, was on a date with another woman.

They went their separate ways, not formally meeting again until 1980, when Life magazine asked the previously unknown pair to come forward. George's friend noticed the picture in the magazine.

George saw the picture for the first time in 1980, 35 years after the war ended.

But they weren't the only ones claiming credit. For more than 30 years, others claimed to be the ones in the photo. And for just as long, George has fought to set the record straight.

He found an ally in Lawrence Verria, a Rhode Island history teacher turned author. In his 2012 book, "The Kissing Sailor," Verria argues the evidence rules out everyone but the retired fisherman from Middletown, Rhode Island.

"It's a story about our nation and World War II," Verria said. "It's a story about a kiss. It's a story about a place. It's a story about a publication. But at the end it's a story about two national treasures, who for 60-some years never got the due that was theirs."

"The best proof there is is my date," Mendonsa said. "Her face is seen over the sailor's right shoulder."

In fact, his date, Rita Petrie, can be seen in the background, smiling from ear to ear.

The kiss must not have bothered Rita. She's been married to George for the last 69 years.

She said women still come up to George. "It'll come up that he's the kissing sailor," Petrie said. "So the kissing sailor has to think he's got to kiss everybody, so he does. Everybody gets his kiss."

People still write to George, asking for autographs and offering words of encouragement. He described a letter with CBS News.

"He states something like, 'It must be something great to be involved in a photo that means the end of World War II,'" Mendonsa said. "Well I'm proud of that."

And so is a nation that 70 years later is still mesmerized by that timeless kiss.

CBS News: August 15, 2015, 6:57 PM
Remembering the iconic V-J Day kissing photograph
See also: Video

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Sandakan Day

Please refer to:

SANDAKAN: The friendship between Malaysia and Australia has in part been shaped by the common and bitter experience of war, said Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove.

He said that what happened at the Sandakan prisoners’ camp site in the last months of World War II would continue to matter.

“It is a war we can never forget, a war we will never forget” Cosgrove said, here yesterday.

Between 1942 and 1943, the Japanese shipped approximately 2,700 Australia and British prisoners of war from Singapore to Sandakan to build a military airstrip.

In 1945, the Japanese were concerned that Allied troops might land in the Sandakan and decided to move their prisoners, most of whom were sick and injured to Ranau which is 260 kilometres away.

“Almost 2,500 Australian and British PoW were forced to march more than 250 kilometers inland to Ranau. Those too ill to walk were killed by their captors or left to die; those who fell during the march were killed. Only six survived the Death March” he said.

During that time, brave locals established a resistance named North Borneo Volunteer Force and helped the prisoners.

Six of the prisoners survived as they hid and were looked after by local villagers.

“Australia is forever grateful to them for the support showed to those in captivity. At great personal risk, these brave men and women participated in the resistance, aided those in captivity and sheltered the few who managed to escape.

“Their example of courage and humanity is a story to tell our children and we remember them as just as we remember our own,” he said during the 70th Sandakan Memorial Day, yesterday morning.

Sandakan Memorial Day is held annually on August 15 at the original Sandakan World War II prisoners’ camp site, which is now the Sandakan Memorial Park, to remember and honour the 2434 Australian and British prisoners, and locals who helped them.

“This is why we are here today. To remember, to honor and to pay our respects to those who sacrificed their all,” Cosgrove said.

Each year, families of fallen heroes travel to this park to observe and participate in the memorial service.

This year’s Sandakan Day memorial service was attended by relatives of the veterans, local community groups, and local and foreign dignitaries.

Borneo Post, Published: August 16, 2015, Sunday
A war we can never forget
Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/08/16/a-war-we-can-never-forget/#ixzz3j2dWl64J

Bill Young remembers scratching the date 15.8.45 into the sandstone wall of his prison cell in Singapore. ‘It was just an ordinary day,’ he says. But then an aeroplane flew over.

'The strange thing was, there was no “ack ack”, no machine gun fire, no response. There was silence. I sat down, looked up and said, “I think the war might be over. The Japs are not answering. That plane is flying around.”’

The following morning, in his 12 by five foot cell in Outram Road Prison, Young received condensed milk for breakfast instead of water. ‘We only ever got condensed milk on the Japanese emperor’s birthday,’ he said. ‘We knew something had happened.’

Four years earlier, what at first seemed like an adventure soon became a fight for survival.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, Young’s captured battalion was imprisoned at Changi. From there, Young and 1,500 other Australian soldiers were loaded onto a ship bound for northern Borneo. Their destination was Sandakan.

The men spent 11 days crammed together in the dark hold of the Yubu Maru as it ploughed through the South China Sea. The rice, riddled with sulphur to stop it deteriorating, gave the men severe cramps and diarrhoea. Twelve died in the first week of the journey, and panic set in.

'Still, no one thought they were going to die,’ said Young. ‘We didn’t join the army to die!’

ABC Radio National, Thursday 13 August 2015 4:00PM
POW Bill Young tells his story
Surviving Singapore and Sandakan
Bill Young was just 16 when Singapore fell and he became a prisoner of war. Shipped to Sandakan, he was beaten, tortured and starved, but survived. He's been painting his mates ever since. He told his story to Ros Bluett.

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 7 − A replica of a cup that was made out of tin and wood in Sandakan during World War 2 (WWII) as an improvised Melbourne Cup will ‘return’ to Sabah after 73 years.

The 1942 Melbourne Cup replica, touring together with the 2015 Melbourne Cup will be on display in the State capital and Sandakan as part of the Melbourne Cup Tour which includes a stop in Sabah in conjunction with Sandakan Day and the 70th year of the end of WWII.

Mike Glover, son of Sandakan Prisoner-of-War (POW) Bunny Glover, is expected to present the 1942 replica to the Sabah Museum Director.

“Bunny Glover, now 94 years old, was only 20 when the Japanese took him as a prisoner in Sandakan. The 1942 Melbourne Cup race organised by the Australian Prisoner-of-War (POW) was held in the Sandakan Camp as a morale boosting event for the prisoners,” said Sabah Tourism Board in a statement today.

Sabah Tourism and the Victoria Racing Committee are bringing together the 2015 Melbourne Cup People’s Tour where the Cup visits towns and cities before the race each year.

The Melbourne Cup is an icon of Australian sporting and social history.

The actual 1942 cup will be on display at the Melbourne Museum during Melbourne Cup race in November.

Both the 2015 Melbourne Cup and 1942 replica will be available for public viewing on Aug 12 2015 between 3.30pm and 4.30pm at Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu, and on Aug 13 2015 between 6.30pm and 7.30pm in Four Points Sheraton in Sandakan.

Malaymail Online: Friday August 7, 2015 10:12 PM GMT+8
1942 Melbourne Cup ‘returns’ to Sabah after 73 years
See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/1942-melbourne-cup-returns-to-sabah-after-73-years
Read also: New Straits Times, Published: Friday August 14, 2015

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Butterworth Fringe Festival

Dance-performances was held last night as "George Town Festival"(GTF) and "Butterworth Fringe Festival" (BFF). The title was "Urban distortions".

t.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e is a Brussels-based dance company which confronts and cross dance with architecture and cinema. Their projects are mainly dance performances and films.

Created in 2003 in Hong Kong by the artist ​​Pierre Larauza ​with the choreographer/dancer.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​Beside their creations, they join multicultural projects and have an educational approach through workshops or their dancing school La Confiserie. ​

≪Our projects fit in our interdisciplinary research, and through them we aim to look into the amalgamation between different media and to erase the borders between disciplines. We try to create an ambiguous, nonhierarchical and striking relationship between bodies, spaces, dramaturgy and technology.

Physical and mental movement is a recurring theme in our creations, and intercultural relations hold a prominent place. Transit locations (airports, hotel rooms but also game centres, call shops, …) are the base for our reflection on loneliness and the suspension in between here and elsewhere.

The movement from one medium to another is the key to the discourse modulated by our performances, giving birth to hybrid and ever-changing projects.

We question the place of the spectator and his implication from witness to voyeur.

Faced with a non-linear narrative and a complex display (scenic or urban), the spectator has to recompose. Our aim is to upset the traditional representative system – to overthrow the codes.

Our narrative is composed of collages and deformations, with a particular interest in disintegration, discontinuity and fragmentation, offering a new form of contemporary fable to the spectator. ≫​

Pierre Larauza & Emmanuelle Vincent​


BFF will be held on August 15 and 16 at Jalan Jeti Lama. The weekend event will feature performances and art installations by local and international artists, musicians, designers and collaborators.

The foreign acts include the t.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e.s dance troupe that will be showcasing its experimental and interactive theatre “Urban Distortion” performed in plastic bubbles; and the Retouramont aerial dance group from France that will perform a show against the backdrop of a shadowy wall while suspended in mid-air.

From Taiwan, the globally recognised Isaac Huo, who has performed in more than 30 countries, will bring the local audience in Butterworth acrobatic performances like juggling and rope walking while balancing on a Cyr wheel.

"Our Facebook friends had been requesting for this performer to be brought in for GTF but we decided to have him for our inaugural BFF," Joe said.

The Japan Foundation will be presenting the Bunraku Puppet Show while Alliance Francaise will be bringing in French food, films, fashion, dance and others to Jalan Jeti Lama...

Ther Malaysian Insider, Published: 18 May 2015 10:24 AM
BFF to bring life to sleepy Butterworth
See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/features/article/bff-to-bring-life-to-sleepy-butterworth#sthash.nFBRyjAU.dpuf

Oh Yes! Bunraku Puppet Show, too...

Four young Bunraku masters are set to thrill audiences for the first time in Penang with their rendition of “The Furious Love of a Greengrocer’s Daughter”, one of 160 plays written during the Edo period (1603-1868) that remain in the national repertory.

Bunraku is a centuries-old art form in which puppeteers – dressed in black and visible to spectators – manipulate large puppets to the accompaniment of sung narratives and traditional instrumentals. In 2003, UNESCO recognised it as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage, citing the unique nature of Japan’s indigenous puppet theatre, and praised the realism with which it portrays human emotions.

The Bunraku Puppet Show is part of the inaugural Butterworth Fringe Festival, a George Town Festival spin-off event held on the mainland.

What is Bunraku?
Ranking with Noh and Kabuki as one of Japan’s foremost stage arts, the Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theatre is a blend of sung narrative, instrumental accompaniment and puppet drama. This theatrical form emerged during the early Edo period (ca. 1600) when puppetry was coupled with Johruri, a popular fifteenth-century narrative genre.

The plots related in this new form of puppet theatre are derived from two principal sources: historical plays set in feudal times (Jidaimono) and contemporary dramas exploring the conflict between affairs of the heart and social obligation (Sewamono). Approximately 160 works out of the 700 plays written during the Edo period have remained in today’s repertory. Nowadays, it attracts numerous young performers, and the aesthetic qualities and dramatic content of the plays continue to appeal to modern audiences.

The Watch Tower scene from “The Furious Love of a Greengrocer’s Daughter”
Oshichi, a greengrocer’s daughter, is upset after she found a sword lost by her lover Kichisaburo. The price for having made such a mistake is none other than seppuku. Oshichi wishes to inform him immediately but is unable to exit the city centre as all gates are closed and will only be reopened come daybreak. However, fire alarms are an exception to this rule. A desperate Oshichi spots a watch tower in the distance and proceeds to ring the bell, knowing all too well that sounding a false alarm is a serious crime.

Organized by JFKL (Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur)

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Mountaineering movie: Everest

Here in Malaysia, a new movie "Everest" is scheduled to oprn in cinemas nationwaide on Sept 24, 2015.

A flag has been planted in one of the most hotly contested territories of the film festival season. Everest, a new movie about the two rival missions up the mountain in 1996, has been chosen as the opening night film of this year’s Venice film festival – a spot which has recently proved itself a premier launchpad for Oscar contenders.

Last year’s Venice opener, Birdman, went on to take the Academy awards for best picture and best director, among others, while the previous year’s, Gravity, took best director and made nearly $1 billion at the box office.

Like Alfonso Cuarón’s space epic, Everest is also an English-language drama directed by a non-native speaker and using 3D technology. The 10th feature by Icelandic film-maker Baltasar Kormákur, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke as leaders of two expedition groups which encountered substantial storms on their way to the summit. Also shinning up the snow are Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Sam Worthington, while Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and Emily Watson play concerned spouses back at home.

The film is one of London-based studio Working Title’s most ambitious projects to date, and hopes to emulate the awards success of its contender from last year – Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. It has been scripted by two veteran British screenwriters: William Nicholson, who penned Shadowlands, Gladiator and last year’s Unbroken, and Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire and was nominated for The Full Monty.

The writers have adapted the script from five different non-fiction books about the incident, which led to the deadliest day on the mountain until the 2014 avalanche, which some of the second unit crew were caught up in.

A trailer released for the film in June concludes with an appeal to people to donate towards relief following the Nepal earthquake in April 2015 – which triggered another Everest disaster.

The Guardian, Published: Wednesday 8 July 2015 12.06 BST
Everest to open the Venice film festival;
Starry real-life drama about 1996 mountaineering incident to be launched from one of the most prestigious spots in the awards calendar
By Catherine Shoard

Mountaineering companies have called off their spring expeditions to Mount Everest in the wake of Nepal’s devastating earthquake.

It is means that there will be virtually no summits of the world’s highest mountain for the second year running after last year’s cancellations following the deaths of 16 Nepalese guides.

The 7.8-magnitude quake left a trail of death and destruction when it erupted around midday on 25 April, bringing down buildings in the capital Kathmandu and triggering an avalanche that ripped through Everest base camp, killing 18 people.

Climbing companies said they had cancelled their plans due to fear of aftershocks and destruction of the route to the summit.

“With ongoing aftershocks and tremors we can’t continue expeditions,” two-time Everest summiteer Dawa Steven Sherpa of Kathmandu-based Asian Trekkers said.

“And there is nothing in place for climbers anyway ... no ropes or ladders.... So there is no point in continuing this season,” he added.

US-based International Mountain Guides and Nepalese outfit Seven Summits expressed similar concerns, while market leader Himex also cancelled their expedition.

“All our members... are climbing down now. No more going up now, not until routes are clear and not until everything is in place for climbers,” said Himex’s Tamding Sherpa.

The decisions come less than a week after the Nepalese tourism department chief advised climbers against abandoning their expeditions, saying repairs were underway while playing concerns of further quakes and aftershocks.

The Sagarmatha pollution control committee, the agency authorised to set the route that climbers take up Mount Everest, has yet to decide whether it will pull the plug on climbing which means some independent climbers could still go ahead.

Some 800 climbers were on the mountain when the avalanche roared through base camp sparked by a massive earthquake that left more than 7,000 people dead.

The disaster was the worst to hit Everest and came just one year after another avalanche killed 16 Nepalese guides, sparking an unprecedented shutdown of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) high mountain.

The Guardian, Published: Monday 4 May 2015 02.17 BST
Nepal earthquake: climbing firms call off Everest expeditions for second year;
Fear of aftershocks and the destruction of routes on the world’s highest peak forces guiding companies to pull out of spring season
By AFP (Agence France-Presse)

KATMANDU, Nepal − Even for Lakpa Rita, a revered Nepalese mountaineer who has reached the summit of Mount Everest 17 times, the roaring wall of boulders, rocks, ice and debris that pulverized much of the mountain’s base camp over the weekend signified a malign new twist in the peak’s destructive powers.

“Nothing like this has happened before at Everest base camp,” Mr. Rita said by telephone Monday from the camp in eastern Nepal, in the aftermath of the earthquake that set off the avalanche and geological convulsions there. At least 18 people died in the area of the camp, which is 18,000 feet above sea level. “This is a huge, huge avalanche,” he said.

The search for victims’ bodies around the camp, where mountaineers gather before trying to reach Everest’s summit, is likely to be long and difficult.

Rescue efforts stalled on Monday because of bad weather, after 20 stranded climbers had been evacuated and 11 bodies had been retrieved, Jhankanath Dhakal, the chief district officer of Solukhumbu District, which includes Nepal’s part of Everest, said in a telephone interview. That was after 60 people were evacuated from Everest on Sunday, he said.

The New York Times, Published: APRIL 27, 2015
A Scene of Destruction After Ice Thunders Into Everest Base Camp

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in Contrast to Abe

Japan’s Emperor Akihito expressed “deep remorse” over his country’s actions in World War II, in a departure from his usual remarks, at a ceremony Saturday to mark 70 years since the end of the conflict.

“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” he said after a minute’s silence to remember the war dead.

It was the first time since acceding to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 that the emperor has expressed regret in such terms at the annual event, according to public broadcaster NHK. His words contrasted with those of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said in a statement Friday that Japan shouldn’t be expected to continually apologize for a conflict that ended 70 years ago.

“Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war,” Abe said, adding that these positions articulated by previous government will “remain unshakable.”

Akihito is widely seen a pacifist. He has never visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine because it memorializes war criminals, while Abe made a donation to the shrine Saturday, and went there in December 2013. Earlier this year, the emperor visited the Pacific island of Palau where he said the “tragic history” of that World War II battleground should never be forgotten...

Bloomberg, August 15, 2015 − 3:28 PM HKT
Japan’s Emperor Expresses Remorse Over War, in Contrast to Abe
By Andy Sharp

Japan’s emperor has voiced “deep remorse” on the 70th anniversary of his country’s defeat in the second world war, in a departure from previous remarks that is seen a gentle swipe at the country’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Abe on Friday expressed “utmost grief” for the suffering Japan inflicted in the war, but said future generations should not have to keep apologising for the mistakes of the past. He offered no fresh apology of his own.

Emperor Akihito, 81, said at a memorial service on the anniversary of the day his father, Hirohito, announced Japan’s defeat: “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people, express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war, and pray for world peace and the further prosperity of our country.”

Akihito, whose words could be interpreted as more contrite than Abe’s, has expressed remorse before, but never at the annual war memorial. He has often urged Japan not to forget the suffering experienced by millions in Asia during the conflict, and attempted to promote reconciliation between Japan and its former victims.

The Japanese emperor’s status as a living god ended with the country’s defeat on 15 August 1945 and the introduction of a new constitution authored by US occupation authorities.

Akihito, a strictly symbolic figure, is banned by the constitution from making political statements, but in his brief address at Tokyo’s Budokan hall on Saturday, he appeared to use carefully nuanced language to communicate his feelings about the war...

The Guardian, Published: Saturday 15 August 2015 05.49 BST
Japan's emperor strikes more apologetic tone than Abe over second world war;
The emperor, 81, is banned by the constitution from any political role, but his carefully nuanced words could be seen as rebuking prime minister, Shinzo Abe
By Justin McCurry Tokyo

Citizens take part in a flash mob dance to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule near Olympic Park in eastern Seoul, South Korea, 15 August 2015.

South Korea celebrated Liberation Day on 15 August marking the 70th anniversary of Korea's Independence and the end of Japan's colonial rule.

The protesters demanded a sincere apology from Japanese government for the so-called 'comfort women' forced to serve for the Japanese Imperial Army as sex slaves during World War II.

EPA (european Pressphoto Agency), No. 52120287, August 15, 2015

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KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 – A factory worker had an early morning shock when he came across a 12-foot python perched on a guava tree at 7.30 am while on his way to work at an industrial zone at Mile 6.5 Tuaran Road yesterday.

He immediately reported his discovery to his general manager, who subsequently contacted animal lover, Sam Lau, who then got in touch with the Civil Defence Department (JPAM).

It is worth noting that the general manager had to fend off members of the public who wanted to capture and make a meal out of the snake, supposedly for its ‘nutritional and medicinal value’.

According to Lau, the JPAM personnel arrived at 8.45 am and quickly captured the python, which will be given its freedom at a mangrove area.

Lau thanked the JPAM for their assistance and advised the public not to panic whenever they encounter a snake. He said they should call 999 and allow the Fire and Rescue Department or JPAM to handle snakes as the agencies have the expertise and the means to do so.

“Do not attempt to disturb the snake because it may make the situation difficult if the snake starts moving around.”

Furthermore, Lau advised the public against eating python not only because it was a protected wildlife species, but also that snake meat have not been subjected to the Health Department’s inspections to ensure it was safe for consumption.

Borneo Post
12 foot python captured and released

On July 22 this year, over 10,000 people turned up for the Sarawak For Sarawakian (S4S) Freedom and Independence Day Walk at the Song Kheng Hai Field here, demanding that the federal government give greater autonomy and more power for Sarawak.

Some bore placards with the word “Referendum” for Sarawak in Malaysia.

The walk also demanded that the state government declare July 22 as Sarawak’s Independence Day as it was the day Sarawak attained its self-determination from Britain in 1963.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-sarawak-najib-says-secession-is-stupid-talk#sthash.ZwsFv0Bb.dpuf

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 – “Autonomy” now seems to be the “magic word” in Sarawak and with the bare mention of it spreads a certain excitement and “hope” to many. It is also obvious why Adenan, Chief Min ister, chose this as the backbone of his regime and efforts to establish his power here in Sarawak.

Let’s make it clear, I am for autonomy. I am for my state to have the powers to decide its own direction and future especially after being sidelined for so long by our cousins in the west. However, I want to encourage us all not to be dazed by such calls and promises and be blinded from the reality of things.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was quoted yesterday at an event in Kuching;

“A lot of overlapping (of powers) can be avoided, many resources can be saved if we can streamline powers between the departments concerned in the federal government and the Sarawak government,” ---

Let us keep in mind who is making this promise. This is the same person who made multiple promises before GE13 and how many of them have actually come to pass. This is the same person who promised to repeal the draconic Sedition Act, the same person who promised no increase of toll and petrol before elections, and also imposed the dreaded GST on us without any transparency on how the extra revenue will be used for the people and betterment of the nation.

I wouldn’t go to the extent of calling him a pathological liar, but how can we put our trust in him to grant us something that will reduce his powers, the very thing that caused him to run havoc just to keep holding on to.

Najib is also at his weakest point of support, that’s why he is clearly desperate to regain power especially in the state where have always given him the highest amount of votes and a CM who fully supports him ignoring all the scandals he is entrenched in.

Could you blame us if we are a bit cautious about it? This is a PM who is more interested is regaining power than the ailing economy and also the hardship of its people. So once he has regained power (by hook or by crook), do you think his interest will still be in granting us the “autonomy” and other demands we are fighting for?

Will we then be side-lined all over again?

Fact is, I highly doubt he will ever grant us the oil royalty we are demanding as it will clearly not benefit his government.

Maybe, just maybe Chief Minister, Adenan’s biggest mistake is to give his unequivocal support to the man who might not even last his tenure and not be there to be kept accountable for the promises he has made to the people of Sarawak.

The promise of autonomy
By Kelvin Yii
See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/the-promise-of-autonomy-kelvin-yii#sthash.JXOUATuu.dpuf

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 – Nearly three months after being wrecked by a 5.9-magnitude quake, Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain will be partially opened to climbers from September 1, though full access to the summit won’t be possible till December 1.

The daily number of climbers up the mountain will also be limited to 100, Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said today.

“Climbers will be allowed to spend the night at Laban Rata before descending the next day,” he said, referring to the 3,272m stop of the 4,095m mountain.

Masidi, when contacted by Malay Mail Online, also said that Sabah Parks is working on creating a new trail to the summit from Laban Rata, which will be open by December this year.

Local travel agents said the reopening is highly anticipated by foreign and local tourists who are eager to experience the new trail following the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that hit the mountain last June 5.

“We have been receiving many enquiries and have taken bookings for climbs between December and next year. People seem to be eager to see the mountain after the earthquake,” said one travel agent who declined to be named.

Last Saturday, a test hike was held for some 88 climbers, including rangers, mountain guides and members of the media to experience the hike and aftermath of the earthquake.

Signs of the damage along the trail emerged from 1,500m upwards, where a section of the route had fallen off the cliff and a new path had been cut out.

Paths damaged by falling trees following tremblors had been cleared and those who reached Laban Rata said that the trail was safe and secure for climbers.

Sabah gears up to fully reopen Mount Kinabalu by year end
See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/sabah-gears-up-to-fully-reopen-mount-kinabalu-by-year-end#sthash.1Rf2Wzhv.dpuf

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This Is Your Brain on Nature

THERE used to be a road lined with trees in my housing area. The trees provided shelter from the heat and it was a really lovely road to drive in. It is called Persiaran Seraya, which is a nice name, as the English translation of “persiaran” could be “tour” or “excursion”.

However, recently, I was horrified to discover that the Klang Municipal Council had chopped down nearly all the trees there.

The bareness and starkness of it just cut me to the heart.

The funny thing is that everyone complains of how hot it is getting, that global warming is getting worse. But what do people do?

First, they chop down trees, which provide oxygen as well as shade, besides having a cooling effect on the environment. Then, they install air-conditioners at home, which raise the temperature of the surrounding area in the long term, and provide relief only for the short term in a limited space. These air-conditioners consume electricity and, indirectly, contribute to global warming.

What an inspiring thing to do. Let us all continue to do that and ensure that the earth continues to be ruined further until all that’s left are buildings instead of green trees.

Is it any wonder then that there is so much dystopian fiction right now, when people have such environmentally-unfriendly mindsets?

What is so wrong with leaving trees alone? Some trees have grown for years, decades, even centuries?

Trees don’t do us any harm but, instead, provide so many benefits, one of which we could not even live a minute without: oxygen. Sure, some people may say: “These trees are dangerous; they can fall during thunderstorms and take out utility poles.” Well, if we would only take better care of the trees and let them grow strong and tall, the likelihood of them falling down would decrease.

These under-appreciated wonders of nature are stronger than we can imagine. Let them grow above utility poles so that their branches won’t interfere with wires. Trees aren’t for the countryside. They belong in cities as well.

London has lots of trees. Those trees are maintained, cultivated and loved. Cities need trees. Have you ever heard about this little problem called Pulau Haba Bandar (Urban Heat Island)? It refers to a city or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activity. Sounds familiar?

However, if you think Malaysia can’t be like London, then look to Singapore. They don’t chop down trees willy-nilly there. The roads are shaded with lovely huge raintrees, which, coincidentally, we also possess in abundance, but apparently happen to enjoy cutting down. They have lots of utility poles there, but they do not lack trees, either.

Malaysians need to be more aware of this environmental problem, and the city councils in particular, as they are the ones who have a say in chopping down these beautiful trees. Public consciousness has to be awakened to the importance of trees in their neighbourhoods. Trees aren’t a nuisance. They are life-sustainers.

Until people realise that, the environmental problems we’ve been facing for years are never going to improve. Humans will continue ruining this earth, and everyone will be delighted and not complain or rue their mistakes then, right?


Letter to New Straits Times: Publsihed: 14 August 2015 at 12:01 PM
Klang cutting down huge shady trees
By K.N., Klang, Selangor
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/96119

How much time do you spend outdoors?

John Burroughs once said, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." Good advice.

Spending time in nature is good for your brain. Consider this:

Why would similar hospital patients just a few rooms apart recover at different rates?

It turned out that some rooms faced a brick wall, while others faced a small stand of deciduous trees. Other than that, the rooms were identical. When the researcher at Paoli Memorial Hospital looked at patient recovery charts, he was struck by how much better the patients fared when their rooms looked out on to a natural setting. Those who faced a brick wall needed a full extra day of recovery time. They were also more depressed, and experience more pain.

Plenty of studies show similar results. And the effects are large.

It seems that grass and trees are good for your brain. Why?

Many of us love urban environments. Architecture has is its own beauty. Nature, though, seems to have a unique restorative affect on our brains.

William James noted that their are two types of human attention: directed attention and involuntary attention. Your brain is engaged in directed attention when you are driving your car, reading a book, writing, negotiating a crowded sidewalk, etc.. Involuntary attention is what happens when your brain is in nature. You attention wanders freely in a non-directed way. This mental meandering seems to restore mental function.

Directed attention depletes. Involuntary attention restores.

The Japanese have a name for this: Shinrin-yoku - the natural therapy of forest bathing.

A great book to read on the brain benefits of being in nature is "This is Your Brain on Nature" by Eva Selhub. Also, "The Nature Principle" by Richard Louv.

I love setting my office up outside, going for walks, cycling, gardening, hiking. I always seem to do my best thinking outdoors.

How about you? Spending time outside gives your brain a chance to "carry out the neural trash", dial down stress, and recover. Try to find the time. Yes, you are busy, but don't be like the wood-cutter who wouldn't take time to take a break and sharpen the axe.

Here's a suggestion: Maybe set a goal of 20 minutes a day to be in a natural setting. Call it your "20 Minute Vacation". Leave your smartphone at home. Your brain will thank you by being happier, and more relaxed. Research says you may even lower your blood pressure, pulse rate, and cortisol levels.

One more thing: When you engage in involuntary attention, your directed attention gets better...

This Is Your Brain on Nature
Terry Small, a brain expert who resides in Canada
In Brain Bulletin #98, 2015

LIFE is a marathon right till the last day. So, pace yourself.

This piece of advice comes from mountain trekker Angie Lim, 48, who is a familiar figure on the wooded trail to Moon Gate Point Five rest station en route to Penang Hill.

What hikers may not notice when they greet her is that she is hefting 10 litres of water in her backpack as part of her training.

Lim is gearing up for an adventure to Mount Siguniang (Four Girls) in Sichuan province, Western China, next year.

She will trek up the Dafang (Main Way) peak, 5,025m above sea level.

The journey will take her about 10 days, hiking eight to 10 hours a day.

“I choose water not just to drink but as my training load so that when I am not in top form, I can just pour some out without any bad effect on the environment,’ she said.

It takes Lim about 20 to 30 minutes to hike up to the rest station but before that, she warms up to the task with brisk walking in the Penang Botanic Gardens.

The electronics factory executive, who graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1991, also invests in high-quality knee braces and advises hikers young and old to do the same.

Hiking is about endurance, not speed,” she said.

“A lot of hikers go thumping downhill without a care for their knees.

“When stepping down the hill, hikers should lower themselves at a sideway angle.”

Every year, Lim aims for a mountain higher than 3,000m to conquer.

She has ventured up nearly every mountain in Malaysia and also tackled Mount Batur and Mount Rinjani in Indonesia and Mount Fansipan in Vietnam.

She has even trekked around the Himalayan range five times and Mount Everest, which she calls “the mother of all peaks and my ultimate dream.”

The Star, Published: Saturday August 15, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
A mountain in China to conquer

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but not enough for victims

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a statement marking the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end on Friday (August 14), acknowledged Japan had inflicted "immeasurable damage and suffering" on innocent people but said future generations of Japanese should not have to keep apologising for the mistakes of the past.

"Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone," Abe said in a prepared speech that was broadcast live nationwide.

"We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize," he added.

Abe in his statement vowed that Japan renounces all future colonial rule. "We must never again repeat the devastation of war. Incident, aggression, war -- we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world," Abe said.

"We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured," Abe said in reference to "comfort women", girls and women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two.

Abe also acknowledged the wartime sufferings of the Chinese in his statement. "How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?" Abe said.

Abe's statement comes as he pushes for a more robust defence policy through measures domestic critics say violate Japan's pacifist constitution.

Public doubts about the bills have triggered a slide in Abe's ratings to below 40 percent. Abe's remarks are being closely watched abroad for whether the conservative leader is watering down past apologies. The legacy of the war still haunts relations with China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan's sometimes brutal occupation and colonial rule before Tokyo's defeat in 1945.

Reuters, 9:25am EDT Sat, August 15, 2015
Japan PM expresses "utmost grief" over war but no apology

The grandson of a wartime cabinet minister, Abe added the Japanese have "engraved in our hearts" the suffering of Asian neighbours, including South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

He expressed "profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences", and said this was also for millions of Japanese who died, some from the US atomic bombings.

But his speech did not sway officials in Beijing.

Late on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan had missed a chance to make a "sincere apology" for its actions, without mentioning Abe by name.

Japan should have made "a clean break with the past of militarist aggression, rather than being evasive on this major issue of principle," Hua added.

China says more than 20 million of its citizens died as a result of Japan's invasion, occupation and atrocities, while Tokyo colonised the Korean peninsula for 35 years until 1945.

nitial media reaction in South Korea was also largely negative, with television analysts noting there was no explicit apology for Japan's wartime aggression.

"Abe skips his own apology," ran the headline on the national Yonhap news agency, which said the speech had fallen short of South Korea's expectations.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se received a call from his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida to explain the message, his ministry said.

Yun responded that Seoul wanted to see Japan's "sincere action" regarding historical issues, the ministry said. A formal South Korean response was expected later.

Beijing and Seoul had previously made clear they wanted him to stick to explicit prime ministerial apologies.

In North Korea, the foreign ministry described his speech as "an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people," in a statement released by state news agency KCNA.

Abe's expressions of remorse were not an "honest admission and apology" for the "monstrous crimes and unspeakable damage done," it said.

Abe has made waves by quibbling over the definition of "invade", and provoked anger by downplaying Tokyo's formalised system of sex slavery in military brothels.

Controversially, the prime minister -- who has been criticised for playing down Japan's war record and trying to expand its present-day military -- said future generations of Japanese should not have to apologise for its past.

"We must not let our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologise," he said.

The United States, for its part, welcomed Abe's statement "as well as his commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

'Forward-looking attitude'
Much speculation had focused on whether Abe would follow a landmark 1995 statement issued by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama.

The so-called Murayama Statement, which became a benchmark for subsequent apologies, expressed "deep remorse" and a "heartfelt apology" for the "tremendous damage" inflicted, particularly in Asia.

Japan's wartime history has come under a renewed focus since Abe swept into power in late 2012, his second stint as prime minister.

Abe had raised concerns with his Asian neighbours with comments about adopting a "forward-looking attitude" that concentrated on the positive role his country had played in the post-war years.

A 2013 visit to a controversial Tokyo war memorial shrine sent relations with Beijing and Seoul to their lowest point in decades, already suffering from long-standing territorial disputes.

Abe's nationalism tends to be especially popular with a small but vocal section of the political right that believes Japan is unfairly criticised for its violent wartime past.

Japan's own national self-narrative has over the decades become one more of victim of the US atomic bombings and a war-mongering government, rather than colonialist aggressor largely responsible for an ill-fated Pacific conflict.

There has been little in the way of a national reckoning or blame thrust upon wartime emperor Hirohito, unlike in Germany where blame was heaped on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

A poll published in Japan's Mainichi newspaper on Friday found 47 percent of those surveyed thought Japan's involvement in WWII was "wrong" because it was an invasion.

It also said 44 percent of respondents thought Japan had apologised enough over the war, while 31 percent thought it had not.

Yahoo News, Updated: August 15, 2015
Japan PM expresses WWII remorse, but not enough for victims
AFP, By Kyoko Hasegawa

Manila (Reuters) − For decades, Filipino former World War II sex slaves have been fighting for recognition and compensation for the horrors they endured at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.

But their campaign has seen little success and now the few surviving "comfort women" left in the Philippines, are hoping the next generation will continue their fight.

The group called themselves "Pamana", or "Inheritance" in Filipino, consisting of a handful of supporters and descendants of the former Filipino "comfort women", a Japanese euphemism for sex slaves...

Former comfort women Hilaria Bustamante and Estelita Dy act as caretakers of the center, which holds the records of all documented Filipino sex slaves under the three-year Japanese rule from 1942-1945.

Bustamante, 89, was abducted from her home and raped inside a Japanese garrison when she was 16. She said she suffered psychological trauma growing up and cannot forget the ordeal even today.

"It's not easy to forget what happened. We will bring this memory down to our graves. even if they give an apology, it is still difficult to forget. It is already marked in us," she said.

Bustamante and Dy decided to offer their support in the early 90s, joining various street protests to demand compensation and justice from the Japanese government. They now live inside the center and teach visitors about the importance of women's rights and the lessons of war.

"We just don't want another war because if there's another war, what happened to us may happen again to the newer generations," said 85-year-old Dy...

CNN Philippines, Updated 11:28 AM PHT Fri, August 14, 2015
WW II 'comfort women' push fight for justice, compensation
By Reuters

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“forward-looking attitude”

This evening will peoples in Japan not give PEACE a chance instead of taking the bellicose stance ??

For a while after the end of the second world war, Toshio Tono could not bear to be in the company of doctors. And the thought of putting on a white coat filled him with dread.

As a young man with an interest in gynaecology, it was an aversion that could have quickly ended his dream of a career in medicine.

But there were powerful reasons behind his phobia.

In 1945, as a first-year student at Kyushu Imperial University’s medical school in southern Japan, Tono became an unwilling witness to atrocities.

Those atrocities – namely the dreadful medical experimentation on live American prisoners of war – decades later, continue to provoke revulsion and disbelief in his country and abroad.

As Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of its wartime defeat on Saturday, speculation is building over how, or if, Shinzo Abe, the conservative prime minister, will apologise for his country’s wartime atrocities.

Amid widespread criticism, including in the US, that under Abe Japan is attempting to expunge the worst excesses of its past brutality from the collective memory, Tono believes his “final job” is to shed light on one of the darkest chapters in his country’s modern history...

The prisoners were led to believe they were going to receive treatment for their injuries. But over the following three weeks, they were to be subjected to a depraved form of pathology at the medical school – procedures to which Tono is the only surviving witness.

“One day two blindfolded prisoners were brought to the school in a truck and taken to the pathology lab,” Tono said. “Two soldiers stood guard outside the room. I did wonder if something unpleasant was going to happen to them, but I had no idea it was going to be that awful.”

Inside, university doctors, at the urging of local military authorities, began the first of a series of experiments that none of the eight victims would survive...

Other airmen had parts of their organs removed, with one deprived of an entire lung to gauge the effects of surgery on the respiratory system. In another experiment, doctors drilled through the skull of a live prisoner, apparently to determine if epilepsy could be treated by the removal of part of the brain.

The tribunals also heard claims from US lawyers that the liver of one victim had been removed, cooked and served to officers, although all charges of cannibalism were later dropped owing to a lack of evidence.

As an inexperienced medical student, Tono’s job was to wash the blood from the operating theatre floor and prepare seawater drips.

“The experiments had absolutely no medical merit,” he said. “They were being used to inflict as cruel a death as possible on the prisoners.

“I was in a state of panic, but I couldn’t say anything to the other doctors. We kept being reminded of the misery US bombing raids had caused in Japan. But looking back it was a terrible thing to have happened.”

Medical staff preserved the POWs’ corpses in formaldehyde for future use by students, but at the end of the war the remains were quickly cremated, as doctors attempted to hide evidence of their crimes...

The GUardian, Last modified on Friday 14 August 2015 01.52 BST
Japan revisits its darkest moments where American POWs became human experiments;
One Japanese doctor has dedicated himself to ensuring the vivisection of eight US airmen by his fellow countrymen is not forgotten
Justin McCurry in Fukuoka

Now 73 and sitting in his Tokyo home, Yohachi Nakajima fights back tears when he thinks of his Chinese adopted mother and the farming village he once called home -- a boy lost inside imperial Japan's crumbling empire.

He was just three years old when Tokyo surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II but also leaving about 1.5 million Japanese stranded in Manchukuo, Tokyo's puppet regime in northeastern China.

Farmers, labourers and young military reservists had migrated into the region from the early 1930s, attracted by government promises of a better life as Japan marched across Asia in a brutal expansionist campaign.

Nakajima's father Hiroshi was among those drawn to Manchukuo, but the frontier life proved miserable and the elder Nakajima was drafted into the military just three weeks before Japan's surrender. His fate is unknown.

Ill and poverty-stricken, Nakajima's mother sought out a local family to care for her son.

"Japan was an invader for them, clearly," Nakajima, who now lives in Tokyo, told AFP.

"It must have been pure humanity that convinced them to adopt and raise me, a child of the aggressor."

The malnourished boy, stomach bulging from starvation, was brought into the centre of the village as curious locals looked on.

One woman, Sun Zhenqin, volunteered to be his guardian and soon gave her scrawny charge a new name, "Lai Fu" (good luck coming).

"She would feed me from her mouth and gently massaged my stomach," Nakajima said.

"She was a midwife. It must have been almost on impulse that she took me in."

After Emperor Hirohito announced his country's surrender, the situation for Japanese migrants trapped in northeastern China deteriorated, with tens of thousands dying of hunger and disease as a frigid winter set in later in the year.

Some migrants-turned-refugees resorted to mass suicide, cramming into small houses that they blew up with grenades, while roving groups of sword-wielding male migrants stabbed women and children to death to end their suffering.

It is believed that just a handful of children were adopted by local families. Many others died of starvation or sickness and some were even killed by fellow Japanese out of mercy. There are no reliable statistics on how many survived...

Nakajima returned to Japan when he was 16 and afterwards spoke just once with his adopted mother, in 1966, during a trip to China when he acted as an interpreter on a cultural exchange.

However, the country, by then in the grip of the chaotic Cultural Revolution, was largely closed to foreigners. Nakajima only made brief contact by telephone with his adopted mother -- who could only shout "Lai Fu! Lai Fu!" before the call was cut off.

The two never talked again and Sun Zhenqin died in 1975...

Yahoo News, August 12, 2015 5:57 AM
'Children of the aggressor': the Japanese war babies adopted by China
By Harumi Ozawa, AFP

And our definition of being a Japanese must be anchored on sharing and pressing PEACE and HARMONY ! That so much power concentrated in the hands of ONE MAN in the highest positions is considered unbelievable in the co-called democratic country !

TOKYO (AFP): Deep remorse and heartfelt apology. They may be just words, but whether Japan’s premier uses them in a war anniversary speech could dictate future relations with the country’s Asian neighbours.

Today, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his closely-watched remarks in a ritual that has seen previous Japanese leaders explicitly apologise for Tokyo’s 20th century militarism.

But the 60-year-old nationalist – criticised by some for playing down Japan’s wartime record and trying to expand the role of the military –has been vague so far on his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

And what he says could either help pacify relations with China and Korea, which were victims of Japan’s brutal march across Asia, or send ties plummeting to a new low.

“The prospect for Japan’s relationship with China and South Korea remains uncertain, partially due to Abe’s view of history,” said Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who teaches international politics at the University of Niigata Prefecture.

Abe has made waves by quibbling over the definition of “invade” and provoked anger by downplaying Tokyo’s formalised system of sex slavery in military brothels.

His 2013 visit to Yasukuni Shrine – seen by Japan’s neighbours as a potent symbol of its militarist past – sent relations with Beijing and Seoul to their lowest point in decades, earning a rebuke from close ally Washington and aggravating simmering territorial tensions.

The visit dented Abe’s bid to hold summit talks with China’s President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart.

At a later meeting, the Chinese leader told Abe that he hoped, “Japan will send a positive message by earnestly responding to concerns in Asian countries and facing history squarely”.

The issue has been top news in Japan, with public broadcaster NHK reporting this week that an original draft of Abe’s statement included the words “apology” and “aggression”.

Abe himself has said only that he would express remorse and follow previous prime ministerial apologies “as a whole”.

But Abe has repeatedly talked of the need for what he calls a “forward-looking attitude” that concentrates on the positive role pacifist Japan has played in Asia since its surrender in 1945.

The Star, Published: Friday August 14, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Remarks at 70th war anniversary more than words for China and S. Korea

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Trees of Strength

MY little two-acre (0.8ha) plot of land in Kuantan, Pahang, produces oxygen, water, and conditions and purifies the air as well as absorb carbon dioxide.

Some people feel that unused plots of land, in or near towns, which are covered with original jungle trees are an eyesore and a waste of valuable resources.

They want the owners to develop the land or to chop down the trees and grow some agricultural produce.

What they do not realise is that these jungle trees and plants are far more valuable, environmentally and commercially, than any agricultural product such a tiny plot of land may produce.

Such original jungle land acts as the green lungs and protectors of the city environment.

Because of the huge volume of roots in large trees, they raise the height of the land and reduce the chance of flooding.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gases, such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, from the air, and in turn, release oxygen.

One large tree can produce one day’s supply of oxygen for four people.

A healthy tree can store 5.9kg of carbon each year (for one acre (0.41ha) of trees, that adds up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide).

Every gallon of petrol burnt produces almost 20lbs (9.07kg) of carbon dioxide.

For every 16,000km you drive, it will take only seven trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produced if the fuel consumption is 17km per litre.

Trees help trap dust, pollens and smoke in the air.

The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 per cent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.

Trees can absorb and block noise as well as reduce glare.

A well-placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 per cent.

Fallen leaves can reduce soil temperature and soil moisture loss.

Decaying leaves promote soil micro-organism and provide nutrients for tree growth.

Trees increase the humidity in the air, help increase ground water recharge, reduce soil erosion and storm water run-off, thus, reducing the amount of water we consume and the need for new water treatment plants and storm water structures.

Trees help reduce surface water run-off from storms, thus, decreasing soil erosion and accumulation of sediments in streams.

They increase ground water recharge and reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals transported to our streams.

An acre of trees absorbs enough carbon dioxide a year to equal the amount produced when you drive a car for 41,843km.

Trees cool the air, land and water with shade and moisture to reduce the heat-island effect of urban communities.

The temperature in urban areas is often 9 degrees warmer than in areas with heavy tree cover.

It will be a huge mistake for the authorities ask small landowners to clear the original jungle land and replace the trees with planting of watermelon or tomato.

The original jungle trees are definitely far more efficient in protecting the environment than human planted varieties.

New Straits Times, Published: 13 July 2015 at 12:00 PM
Useful little plots of jungle trees
Letter written by Datuk Dr Looi Hoong Wah, Kuantan, Pahang

Environmental Benefits
Trees can reduce air temperature by blocking sunlight. Further cooling occurs when water evaporates from the leaf surface. The conversion of water to air vapor --- a chemical process --- removes heat energy from the air.

A tree can be a natural air conditioner. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

You can improve the efficiency of your heat pump by shading it with a tree.

Deciduous trees block sunlight in the summer but allow sunlight to reach and warm your home in the winter ---- place deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home.

Trees can shade hard surface areas such as driveways, patios, building and sidewalks thus minimizing landscape heat load -- a build up of heat during the day that is radiated at night resulting in warmer temperatures. Ideally, 50 percent of the total paved surface should be shaded.

Evergreen trees can be used to reduce wind speed and thus loss of heat from your home in the winter by as much as 10 to 50 percent.

Trees absorb and block noise and reduce glare. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.

Fallen tree leaves can reduce soil temperature and soil moisture loss. Decaying leaves promote soil microorganism and provide nutrients for tree growth.

Trees help settle out and trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air. The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 percent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.

Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen.

* One large tree can supply a day's supply of oxygen for four people.

* A healthy tree can store 13 pounds of carbon each year ----for an acre of trees that equals to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

* Each gallon of gasoline burned produces almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

* For every 10,000 miles you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produce if your car gets 40 miles per gallon (mpg); it will take 10 trees at 30 mpg; 15 trees at 20 mpg; 20 trees at 15 mpg; and 25 trees at 12 mpg)

Trees help reduce surface water runoff from storms, thus decreasing soil erosion and the accumulation of sediments in streams. They increase ground water recharge and reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals transported to our streams.

An acre of trees absorb enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal the amount produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles.

Trees cool the air, land and water with shade and moisture thus reduce the heat-island effect of our urban communities. The temperature in urban areas is often 9 degrees warmer than in areas with heavy tree cover.

Trees can help offset the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air and reduce the " greenhouse effect."

Trees create microclimates suitable for growing shade loving plants.

The American Forestry Association estimates that 100 million new trees would absorb 18 million tons of carbon dioxide and cut US air conditioning costs by $4 billion annually.

Dews and frosts are less under tree because less radiant heat is lost at night.

North Carolina State University, USA

GEORGE TOWN: QUARRYING on mainland Penang, carried out by both licensed and unlicensed operators over the past 10 years, is fast changing the landscape of the northern state.

Its once scenic hills have been blasted and stripped bare, with residents predicting that some areas will be flattened soon.

Checks by the New Straits Times showed rampant quarrying in Juru, Bukit Tambun, Batu Kawan, Berapit, Kubang Semang and Simpang Empat.

The naked hills, especially those in Juru, could be seen from the Penang Bridge.

Bald and exposed patches on the hills of Batu Kawan and Bukit Tambun could be seen by motorists using the North-South Expressway.

NST was told that quarry materials (rocks and sand) extracted from the mainland were sent to the island to cater to the rapid development there.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) concurred, saying the demand was due to rapid development and reclamation projects in the state.

Residents in the affected areas lamented how their lives had changed due to the quarrying.

Md Yusope Din, 68, from Kampung Pengkalan, a stone’s throw from Kampung Masjid, remembered how lush and green the Batu Kawan hill used to be when he was a boy.

“The hill was filled with rubber trees and the surroundings were serene and peaceful. Not anymore.

“With rampant quarrying taking place, I fear the hill may no longer exist in the next five years. Future generations will probably not know of Batu Kawan hill.”

He took a swipe at the DAP-led state government’s “Go Green” campaign, saying it was no longer relevant.

“What green are we talking about? All I see is the hill being stripped naked and laid bare,” he said...

New Straits Times, Published: 10 August 2015 at 11:01 AM
Quarry pain for Penang
By Audrey Dermawan
Read more: http://www.nst.com.my/node/95464

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anti-Japan rally

Liam Neeson is to play the famed American military leader General Douglas MacArthur in the South Korean war epic Operation Chromite, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Named after the codename for the Battle of Inchon, one of the Korean war’s earliest skirmishes, John H Lee’s film will focus on eight South Korean troopers who helped turn the tide against the communist northern forces during a covert operation that preceded the battle’s opening surprise amphibious attack on the city of Inchon. Lee will work from a screenplay by Lee Man-hee, with both film-makers best known for another war film, 2010’s well-reviewed 71: Into the Fire.

The Battle of Inchon resulted in a decisive victory for US and United Nations-backed southern forces, and paved the way for the liberation of Seoul on 25 September, 1950. It ended a string of victories by the north and resulted in southern advances until October, when the communist Chinese entered the conflict. Historians suggest MacArthur was the driving force behind the victory as general of the United States army.

A 12bn Korean won (£6m) film, Operation Chromite will go into production later this year, with its debut in cinemas set for 25 June 2016, the 66th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean war.

The Guardian, Published: Wednesday 12 August 2015 14.38 BST Last
Liam Neeson to play famed US general in South Korean epic Operation Chromite;
As yet it is unclear whether actor will speak Korean as General MacArthur in Korean production about 1950 battle of Inchon, to begin shooting later this year
By Ben Child

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) − An 80-year-old South Korean man was in life-threatening condition on Thursday after setting himself on fire during an anti-Japan protest in Seoul, hospital officials said.

The rally on Wednesday, attended by hundreds and held in front of the Japanese Embassy, was staged ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II on Saturday that freed the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule.

Choi Hyeon-yeol, who remains unconscious, suffered third-degree burns on his face, neck, upper body and arms and has been relying on a breathing machine after his lungs deteriorated, said an official at Seoul's Hallym University Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

Doctors had planned to operate on Choi on Friday to remove dead skin from his body, but it's now unclear whether they will be able to do so after Choi's condition took a turn for the worse after experiencing a sudden drop in blood pressure overnight.

"He is an old man and the injuries are serious, with more than 40 percent of his body covered in third-degree burns, so there's no guarantee that he will survive," the official said.

Lumps of burned cotton and a small glass bottle that reeked of gasoline were found on a flower bed near the rally where Choi set himself a blaze. A five-page statement found in his bag, apparently written by him, condemned Japan for its stance on issues related to its colonial rule of Korea and wartime conduct, according to Seoul police official Seo Hyeon-su. The rally continued after Choi was taken to the hospital.

Since 1992, activists have organized weekly protests in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand justice for South Korean women who were forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese military during the war, and the gatherings have been mostly peaceful. The turnout was particularly high on Wednesday as the countries approached the anniversary.

Many South Koreans harbor deep resentment toward Japan over its colonial occupation. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans were forced to fight as front-line soldiers, work under slave-labor conditions or serve as prostitutes in brothels operated by the Japanese military during the war.

Such sentiment has strengthened in recent years over what South Koreans feel are attempts by Japan to downplay its wartime conduct, as well as Tokyo's territorial claims to a set of small islets occupied by South Korea.

Protests sometimes turn violent. Scuffles with police are common and demonstrators have severed their own fingers or hurled excrement at the embassy in the past.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 12, 2015, 10:13 PM EDT
Korean Man Badly Hurt After Self-Immolation at Japan Protest

South Korea and the United States began large-scale joint live-fire exercises, Wednesday, to demonstrate their combat capabilities, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Some 2,000 soldiers from 47 military units of the two nations will mobilize their high-tech weaponry for four drills this month at an Army training camp in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province.

The drills come amid heightening tension along the inter-Korean border following North Korea’s mine explosions last week that wounded two South Korean soldiers...

“The two countries will show their firm combat readiness, which is capable of immediately responding to and destroying the enemy that launches any provocations, including the land mine explosion in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ),” the ministry said in a statement, referring to the incident last week.

The ministry announced Monday that the reclusive state is believed to have planted three antipersonnel land mines in the South-controlled area of the DMZ between July 26 and Aug. 1. The mines exploded on Aug. 4, maiming two South Korean soldiers who were on a regular patrol.

The Seoul-Washington joint drill has taken place seven times since June, 1977, with the last one held in 2012.

The ministry noted that this year’s exercise features the participation of the largest numbers of new weapons and troops to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule.

Regarding the latest provocation by the North, Defense Minister Han Min-koo told lawmakers that the ministry will take follow-up measures other than resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcasting along the DMZ.

“Resuming the loudspeaker broadcasting was not everything, but the initial reaction,” Han said during his appearance at a National Assembly Defense Committee session.

The ministry resumed the loudspeaker propaganda broadcasting at two places in border areas Monday, after having not done so for 11 years, as the first step in retaliation against the North.

Han told lawmakers that this will be expanded to all the areas along the inter-Korean border. The ministry currently has loudspeakers in 11 areas.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang has not given any response to the ministry’s announcement blaming the North and the resumption of propaganda broadcasting.

This is in contrast with its prompt denial in 2010 when the South criticized the North for its deadly torpedoing of the South Korean Navy frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

When Seoul announced a plan to resume the propaganda broadcasting as part of a psychological warfare program in the wake of the 2010 provocation, Pyongyang threatened to shoot at the loudspeakers. The broadcasting did not resume at that time.

The Korea Times, Published: August 12, 2015
S. Korea, US begin joint drills
By Jun Ji-hye

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What's on at 'Trees'

Mr Yahho wants today to introduce another Comment to the newspaper, The New Straits Times written by Dr Ahmad Ibrahim, a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. This is about Rubber tree:

Natural rubber farmers in the country are always at the mercy of world rubber prices. When world rubber prices are buoyant, they are well compensated. But at a time when rubber prices hit the low end, they have no where else to turn to. They are also at the mercy of the weather. Rainy days are a no no since they cannot tap rubber.

Businesses which use natural rubber to manufacture all kinds of products are not as badly affected. In fact the lower prices are a boon for them. Their fate is determined more by the market demand for their products. They thrive on margins. Not the farmers. Whatever losses suffered in the downstream business can often be passed down to the farmers. Even the cess for research are effectively paid by the growers. It is an irony really.

The fact is if rubber smallholders abandon rubber growing, not only are the rubber products people affected but also equally affected are the rubberwood furniture makers. It has been reported that the bulk of the nation’s furniture exports are those made from rubberwood.

There must be a serious rethink about the entire natural rubber industry in the country. In order to sustain supply, rubber prices must be sustained at reasonable levels. Prices should be high enough for smallholders to have decent incomes. And low enough for downstream manufacturers to enjoy good enough margins.

For many years, the demand side has been dominated by the tyre sector. This must change. New uses must be created. Research must be devoted more to downstream applications rather than trying to solve the never ending tapping woes of production...

For a number of years now, the downstream rubber business in the country has been skewed towards latex gloves. In fact, the big four producers of Asean − Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia − all compete in the same examination gloves and condom sector. It is time this changed. Malaysia has tried for many years to expand the non-latex products market but with limited success.

We need to reexamine that strategy and pursue as an Asean partnership of the big four. Imagine producing the non-latex rubber products for Asean’s 600 million population. It is a big boost to the Asean economy. Since most rubber products in the market are made up of both NR and synthetic rubber, this can catalyse the growth of the synthetic rubber business here as well. This is not impossible because Asean is also endowed with plentiful petroleum resources.

And the best place to start such Asean rubber products venture is within the premises of the Rubber City that has now been earmarked in Kedah at the Malaysia-Thai border. It is the most optimal location considering the fact that it is also not far from Sumatra, Indonesia’s major natural rubber province.

Once successful, similar centres can be replicated elsewhere on the borders of other Asean partners... Asean can bring back the shine in natural rubber!

The New Straits Times, Published: Monday, June 29, 2015
Asean can bring back shine to rubber
By Dr Ahmad Ibrahim, a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/90164

Meanwhile Mr Yahho's favorite fruit is the Durian of which the season in Penang is over! He is now thinking about the tree of Durian. It takes 10 years for the trees to mature and start bearing fruits but even then some trees don't bear good fruits.

Balik Pulau in Penang, Malaysia − Every summer, farmer Durian Seng clambers into the back of his van, removes the seats and lines the space with banana leaves. Then he crams the vehicle with 300 durians from his orchard on the Malaysian island of Penang and drives inland to Kuala Lumpur, where his biggest client, a high-powered communications firm, uses the fruit as gifts for its most-valued customers.

Riding with Seng in the now-empty van, I try to imagine what 300 durians would smell like as he takes me up the winding, tree-lined roads to his orchards here, on the western coast of the island.

Would it be intoxicating or noxious?

That is the question one inevitably faces when dealing with the durian, that spiky, football-size tropical fruit whose notoriously pungent odor provokes only strong reactions: utter disgust or passionate obsession.

Durian is more than just a fruit, you see. It is a polarizing issue, spawning endless, heated debate. To some, it reeks like a sewage tank or rotting onions. Even in Southeast Asia, where the fruit is native, durian is banned on the subway and in public buildings because of its controversial scent. Anthony Bourdain, host of the travel and food show “No Reservations,” declares that durian will make your breath “smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”
When I was growing up in Toronto, durian was a rare treat in my family for many reasons: its limited availability after we left Vietnam in 1984, its price and the richness of the fruit. It was always a feast to be shared, not just because the fragrance made it impossible to devour in secret, but also because its consumption involved an elaborate production. Opening a durian requires skill.
These days, access to the finest durian has become a status symbol in Southeast Asia. Last year, tycoon Stanley Ho of Macau sent a private jet (durians are not allowed on commercial flights) to Singapore just to retrieve 88 durians (a lucky number in Asian cultures) valued at a total of about $1,500.

Until he reaches such lucrative heights, Seng is committed to growing the finest durians he can. I notice that his orchard still bears traces of the last few rambutan trees he has just chopped down to make room for new durian saplings. For now, he is content to spread the love of durians to all those who will come, believing it’s only a matter of time before durian fever will overtake them.

“When you are this close, you’ll get affected,” Seng says. “When it’s in season, you’ll get affected. Whether you like it or don’t like it, one day you will take a bite and be affected.”

The Washington Post, Published: July 12, 2011
What it takes for the durian to smell of success
By Julie Wan

Mr Yahho is recommending you to read the Durian trees and Rubber trees here in Malaysia because he visited yesterday Town Hall to watch the Exhibition of Trees. The Hall has been decorated by the photo taken by Beth Moon, an American photographer born in 1956, under the title of "Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time". Here is an article about her:

To the non-phytomaniac, the word "baobab" might as well refer to a rare breed of primates or a minuscule kind of bacteria living on the edges of eyelashes. But, for those well versed in the world of ancient trees, the term rather distinctly points to a special genus of plant life indigenous to Madagascar, mainland Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Australia. Also called "the tree of life," baobab is the common name for Adansonia, a group of six species of trees; wild growths of trunk and foliage that all at once resemble bottle caps, umbrellas and alien life forces.

Beth Moon has positioned herself as a sort of documentarian of baobabs. In a book titled "Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time", the photographer reveals heart-stopping images of bulging plants reaching to the heavens and the horizon. Although she photographs other types of ancient trees, like sequoias and yews, her framed baobabs -- trees that can live for thousands of years -- stand out.

Moon uses three criteria in choosing her photographic subjects: age, size and history. Using history books and botany references, tree registers and newspaper articles, she tracks down tree survivors located on mountainsides, private estates and protected lands. Some species exist only in a few areas around the world, and the baobab is one of them, as it's an ancient and endangered fixture found mostly in Madagascar.

"Standing as the earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment, celebrating the wonders of nature that have survived throughout the centuries," she writes in her artist statement. "By feeling a larger sense of time, developing a relationship with the natural world, we carry that awareness with us as it becomes a part of who we are. I cannot imagine a better way to commemorate the lives of the world’s most dramatic trees, many which are in danger of destruction, than by exhibiting their portraits."

The Huffington Post, Updated: 12/18/2014 11:59 am EST
Monumental Portraits Of Ancient Trees Reveal Some Of Earth's Oldest Living Wonders
By Katherine Brooks

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Welcome to beautiful Kota Kinabalu!

Mr Yahoo refers 3 articles in today's newspaper, The Star, from Kota Kinabalu as follows:

KOTA KINABALU: Residents in earthquake-hit Ranau are hoping for the proverbial durian runtuh (windfall) by offering the king of fruits for a stunning 70 sen per kilo.

The fruits sold in stalls along the road towards Ranau have attracted large crowds of durian lovers from many parts of the state following news about the low prices.

The cheap prices are applicable to durian kampung, the non-graded varieties which usually sell for about RM8 per kilo.

“Branded” durians are being sold at market price. For example, the ever popular musang king is selling at RM30 per kilo.

Those who have been to Ranau and went home with truckloads of durians are posting about it and urging people to follow suit.

Civil servant Valentine Peter, 31, who was met at one the durian stalls, said he came all the way from Kota Kinabalu, some 100km away and about two hours’ drive, just to eat the durians.

“I came to know about these cheap durians from Facebook. They taste as good as the more expensive types like D24 or musang king but at a way lower price,” he said.

Schairlinelle Sautol, 30, said she and her twin daughters Veldevella and Veldevea, four, love durian a lot and would always spend a fortune buying them when the fruit was in season.

“Although we have our own little durian farm, we do not want to pass up the chance to buy such cheap durians,” she said...

The Star, Published: Wednesday August 12, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Ranau’s cheap durians attract buyers from afar

KOTA KINABALU: Mount Kinabalu is a hotbed of evolution, an extensive Malaysian-Dutch scientific expedition has determined.

The 2012 expedition, the findings of which were published in the Aug 12 issue of Nature magazine, involved the Dutch Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Sabah Parks researchers.

It showed that new plant and animal species have been evolving on the 4,095m mountain.

“It is thought that tropical mountains are locations where very old species survive. However, our research reveals that most of the species are young,” said Naturalis scientist Menno Schilthuizen.

He said the study involved collecting tens of thousands of plants, animals and mushrooms including ferns, mosses, orchids, snails, leeches, insects, spiders and frogs at 37 locations on and around Mount Kinabalu.

Schilthuizen said they then used DNA sampling to determine which plant and animal species unique to the mountain had in fact evolved.

They found that most of the species that occurred on Mount Kinabalu were in fact younger than the mountain itself.

“We also found that the endemic biodiversity consists of two groups.

“Some of the unique species are immigrants from faraway areas such as the Himalayas or China, which were already adapted to a cool environment,” Schilthuizen said.

The other endemic plants and creatures evolved from the local species that occurred at the foot of the mountain and gradually adapted to the cooler climate, Schilthuizen added.

“Our research has revealed the extent to which species are able to evolve to keep up with climate change and this allows us to make predictions for the future,” he said, adding that this was all the more reason for the protection of endemic species.

Schilthuizen said like other tropical mountains, Mount Kinabalu was exceptionally high in biodiversity.

“There is an exceptional number of species on the mountain due to the variations in temperature and environment in the different elevations,” he said.

The Star, Published: Wednesday August 12, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Study: Plant and animal species on Mount Kinabalu evolving
By Ruben Sario

Referring to: http://kotakinabalu.com/cmarterbfda.php?doc=367
Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of the Malaysian state Sabah --

KOTA KINABALU: Decentralisation of federal powers will cut bureaucracy and enhance efficiency in the implementation of people-centred projects for Sabah and Sarawak.

Liberal Democratic Party president Datuk Teo Chee Kang said the announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that more autonomous powers would be given to the two states was timely.

“It is timely to retune and readjust to present practices and policies in relation to sharing of federal resources for Sabah and Sarawak.

“There is always room for such readjustment to be done depending on the different needs at different times within the framework of the Constitution,” said Teo, who is state Special Tasks Minister who represented Sabah in the launching of the National Month by Najib in Kuching on Monday.

He said Najib’s statement showed that he was truly listening to the needs of Sabahans and Sarawakians.

The call for more autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak has been growing with both Barisan Nasional and the Opposition pushing for the two states autonomous rights.

Najib had said in Kuching that the federal and state secretaries had already begun discussions to determine what form of empowerment could be returned to the two states and called on the people to reject certain groups calling for secession...

The Star, Published: Wednesday August 12, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
LDP: Decentralisation will raise efficiency in Sabah and Sarawak

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Injecting Soul

KUCHING: Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), a statutory body under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti), organised the two-day Global R&D Leaders and CEOs Forum 2015 that was held here beginning yesterday.

The forum hoped to enlighten change makers and stakeholders to pave the way, develop and find solutions to challenges facing humankind, such as poverty, malnutrition and climate change.

The forum comprises five sessions, with session one focusing on finding the soul in R&D, session two on leveraging social innovation and entrepreneurship, session three on co-producing value-based solution, session four on technology sharing, and session five on sustainable financing and impact investing.

The International Association of Universities (IAU) president Prof Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abd Razak delivered his keynote address on ‘Injecting Soul into R&D’ yesterday.

Borneo Post, Published: August 6, 2015, Thursday
Forum prompts need to inject ‘soul’ into R&D
Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/08/06/forum-prompts-need-to-inject-soul-into-rd/#ixzz3iZE7hMgN

Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abd Razak, former vice-chanellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia, likened "soul" to "conscience". Quoting Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein: "Conscience is the voice of the soul and consience is a man's compass." To be useful, R&D must have clear directions. It must be clear on the returns and benefits it will bring to society and humanity. Going back in history, R&D undertakings of the past had a clear purpose and reason. Today's R&D, sadly, is too much skewed towards business and commerce. In the medical arena, for example, thanks to he power given to patents amd other instruments of intellectual ownership, much of humanity, especially the poor, is deprived of the benefits of R&D.

It is clear that global R&D mst be guided by the sustainability agenda. Global investment in R&D must conform to Sustainability Development Goals, which shold be finalised soon at thr UN. This means that global R&D must deliver balanced benefits to people, profit and planet, the 3Ps of sustainability.

Otherwise we cannot discount major upsets that could disrupt the sustainability agenda. And, all investments in R&D would go to waste.

New Straits Times, Published: Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Paradigm shift needed in global R&D
By Dr Ahmad Ibrahim, fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Another report from the International Seminar.

LAST Saturday (August 1, 2015), a seminar was held at the Multimedia University in Malacca on “The Threat of Global Terrorism in the 21st Century”. It explored the many dimensions of this challenge to civilisation.

Participants were reminded that terrorism has existed throughout the ages. No nation and no region have escaped its evil. No race, religion or region is without guilt in perpetrating it.

Much depends on how we define “terrorism”. There is an Alice in Wonderland quality about the term. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

A person hounded by some as a terrorist may be honoured by others as a freedom fighter. The Nazis used this appellation for the hapless Jews of Germany. The Israelis and the Americans use it to describe the terrorised people of Palestine...

> The excesses of the US war on terror have spawned much terrorism. America’s overwhelming military superiority and “full spectrum dominance” leaves those who oppose the US no choice but to use desperate measures for hopeless situations.

> There is a possible opportunistic link between terrorist outfits, organised crime and arms dealers. In a world in turmoil, the arms industry is the greatest beneficiary.

> The Islamic State-related turmoil in Iraq and Syria cannot be overcome unless there is openness about the organisation’s roots. Much like al-Qaeda, the IS is a radical Sunni group which is armed and financed by the US to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Syiah Iran and pro-Russian Syria.

> The US is using IS in four ways: to attack Syria which is Israel and America’s enemy; to maintain its military presence in the Middle East as it winds down in conquered Iraq; to sell arms and militarise the region; and to use terrorism as a pretext to expand invasive domestic surveillance.

In sum, terrorism is a mere symptom. We may be in denial about its real causes.

The Star, Published: Thursday August 6, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Reflecting On The Law - Terror’s many dimensions;
Counter-terrorism measures must be accompanied by a holistic approach that promotes prevention and peaceful resolution of prolonged conflicts.
By Shad Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM

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Human life and nature are more precious than the economy

TOKYO/SATSUMASENDAI - Japan has restarted a nuclear reactor for the first time under new safety standards put in place since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to reassure a nervous public that the industry is now safe.

Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be switched on again to cut fuel bills, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami four years ago.

Kyushu Electric Power began the restart on Tuesday of the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai plant, a spokesman said. The reactor will take a few days to reach full power if all goes to plan.

The head of Japan's atomic watchdog said that new safety rules meant a repeat of the Fukushima disaster would not happen, but protesters outside the Sendai plant are not convinced.

"You will need to change where you evacuate to depending on the direction of the wind. The current evacuation plan is nonsense," said Shouhei Nomura, a 79-year-old former worker at a nuclear plant equipment maker, who now opposes atomic energy and is living in a protest camp near the plant on Kyushu island.

Abe has said only reactors that were deemed to have cleared the "world's most stringent regulation standards" would be allowed to restart.

The Sendai plant is the furthest away of Japan's reactors from the capital Tokyo, where protesters regularly gather outside Abe's official residence to oppose atomic energy.

The protesters in Sendai included Naoto Kan, who was prime minister during the Fukushima crisis and now fiercely opposes nuclear power.

In the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier, the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant caused a release of radioactive material and forced 160,000 from their homes, with many never to return...

Ahead of Tuesday's restart, a few hundred people rallied outside the Sendai plant amid tight security.

"Human life and nature are more precious than the economy," a young woman told the national broadcaster.

Reuters, Green Business, Published: Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:12am EDT
Japan restarts reactor in test of Abe's nuclear policy
By Aaron Sheldrick and Issei Kato

MAJURO (Marshall Islands): Nearly 70 years after they were uprooted to make way for United States' nuclear tests, Bikini Islanders have approved two new resolutions seeking Washington's aid to relocate again -- including one citing the "psychological toll" of leaving their atoll.

For decades, Bikini islanders have struggled to survive on Kili, an inhospitable and isolated island with no lagoon for fishing or calm anchorage for boats.

Their hardship has worsened in the past four years with ocean water repeatedly flooding the land, and an airport runway that turns to mud when it rains.

It has reached an intolerable stage for the Bikini Council, which has now requested Washington's assistance with relocating the people who have lived in exile since the start of the nuclear testing at Bikini atoll in 1946.

The United States tested 24 nuclear weapons at Bikini, including its largest hydrogen bomb, Bravo, in 1954.

"We may have no option but to relocate," Bikini Mayor Nishma Jamore said as he outlined the future for the 800 residents on the island.

"Climate change is real. We are feeling and experiencing it. In the future we will have no choice (but to relocate)."

Jamore was speaking Thursday after the Bikini Council approved two resolutions seeking to have the Resettlement Trust Fund for Bikini islanders, established by Washington in 1982, used for relocation outside of the Marshall Islands.

Most of the Bikini people want to move to the United States because of the deteriorating conditions, but the trust fund specifically restricts resettlement spending to the Marshall Islands.

One resolution noted that since the resettlement to Kili in 1948, the change from an atoll environment to an island with no lagoon "continues to take a severe psychological toll on the people".

Added to the problem of subsistence is the impact of rising sea levels on Kili and Ejit Islands, also home to people relocated from Bikini Atoll, which are "covered by high waves at least five times in the last four years, resulting in contamination of all wells on both islands", the resolution said.

The second resolution says conditions on Kili "are similar to those facing the people of Bikini on Rogerik in 1946, of being placed on an island that cannot sustain the population".

The people of Bikini spent two years on Rogerik before being moved to Kili in 1948 because they were starving.

The Bikinians believe the US government remains morally responsible for their welfare, claiming their home island has not been properly cleaned and repaired since the nuclear tests.

"They really need to clean up Bikini," councillor Lani Kramer said. "I believe even if we don't go back they should clean it up no matter what."

The Times of India, Published: Aug 8, 2015, 06.49 AM IST
Bikini nuclear refugees seek US aid to leave Marshall Islands

Black seabirds circle high above the giant concrete dome that rises from a tangle of green vines just a few paces from the lapping waves of the Pacific. Half buried in the sand, the vast structure looks like a downed UFO.

At the summit, figures carved into the weathered concrete state only the year of construction: 1979. Officially, this vast structure is known as the Runit Dome. Locals call it The Tomb.

Below the 18-inch concrete cap rests the United States’ cold war legacy to this remote corner of the Pacific Ocean: 111,000 cubic yards of radioactive debris left behind after 12 years of nuclear tests.

Brackish water pools around the edge of the dome, where sections of concrete have started to crack away. Underground, radioactive waste has already started to leach out of the crater: according to a 2013 report by the US Department of Energy, soil around the dome is already more contaminated than its contents...

Tony De Brum was nine years old and living on the atoll of Likiep, when he witnessed the blinding flash, thunderous roar and blood-red skies of Castle Bravo, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated by the US, which was tested at Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954.

Now the Marshall Islands minister of foreign affairs, he has since emerged as a voice for small island nations in international climate negotiations and leading advocate on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. De Brum is spearheading an ambitious lawsuit against the world’s nuclear powers, including the US, at the International Court of Justice.

“We asked the Americans, are you going to put a sign on the dome that says ‘Don’t come here because you might get exposed’?” he said.

“Our president asked: ‘Are you going to put a sign up so that the birds and turtles also understand?’”

The US has never formally apologized to the Marshall Islands for turning it into an atomic testing ground. When the UN special rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, Calin Georgescu, visited the Marshall Islands in 2012 he criticized the US, remarking that the islanders feel like ‘nomads’ in their own country. Nuclear testing, he said, “left a legacy of distrust in the hearts and minds of the Marshallese”.

“Why Enewetak?” asked Ading, Enewetak’s exiled senator during an interview in the nation’s capital. “Every day, I have that same question. Why not go to some other atoll in the world? Or why not do it in Nevada, their backyard? I know why. Because they don’t want the burden of having nuclear waste in their backyard. They want the nuclear waste hundreds of thousands miles away. That’s why they picked the Marshall Islands.”

“The least they could’ve done is correct their mistakes.”

The Guardian, Published: Friday 3 July 2015 11.00 BST
This dome in the Pacific houses tons of radioactive waste – and it's leaking;
The Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is a hulking legacy of years of US nuclear testing. Now locals and scientists are warning that rising sea levels caused by climate change could cause 111,000 cubic yards of debris to spill into the ocean
Coleen Jose, Kim Wall and Jan Hendrik Hinzel on Runit Island

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to prioritise health above profit

This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Vietnam. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Vietnam in January, the two countries confirmed that their relationship had grown into an even greater "strategic partnership" and agreed to continue cooperating on constructing nuclear power plants and developing rare earths resources.

However, many problems have surfaced concerning recent resources and energy development in Vietnam. Simply looking at the progress thus far, there is major cause for concern over the construction of nuclear power plants there.

The ongoing bauxite mining and alumina production financed by Chinese firms in the south-central highlands of Vietnam is a large-scale project on par with nuclear power plant construction. Yet this project was agreed on by the leaders of the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties behind closed doors, and it began without any deliberations in Vietnam's National Assembly.

No environmental impact assessment reports have been released, and some have pointed out that the project is in violation of the law. Due to the lack of transparency in the decision-making process, as well as any obligation for the government to explain the details of the project, an organized opposition movement led by Vietnamese intellectuals has grown, and the bauxite venture has galvanized action demanding democracy and disclosure.

I interviewed people in farming villages in Dak Nong and Lam Dong provinces, where bauxite resources are being exploited, but none of the residents had received any clear explanations on the bauxite mines and construction and expansion of alumina refineries, nor on land seizure plans, compensation and the like. Although villagers have complained to companies and government agencies about harm from construction sites such as sediment runoff, wastewater, noise and shaking, no substantial measures have been taken.

Companies have also failed to pay some construction workers' wages due to "budget shortages." Many of them are migrant workers from outlying areas, a good number of whom apparently did not return to the workplace after the New Year's holidays because the work is not stable. The government's story, that the development provides jobs and occupational training opportunities to communities and contributes to growing the local economy, has not been substantiated. The Ministry of Industry and Trade, which oversees the project, stresses that it is "respecting the lifestyles of local residents," but it is undeniable that the reality is significantly different.

Meanwhile at the alumina refinery in Lam Dong province, which was supposed to begin production in 2010, the initial construction plan has been pushed back two years. Twice now a decision has been made to postpone bringing the refinery online.

As the project management office explains, the reasons for the delays are the complex technical requirements of alumina production, "errors" in some processes that have made production unstable and the slow pace of land seizures. An expansion is also planned at Ke Ga Port in Binh Thuan province to transport the alumina, but construction had not moved forward even five years after the government granted permission in 2007, and this past February, the project was finally canceled. There has also been no progress on expanding roads and reinforcing bridges that connect the refinery with the port. The project is clearly a failure, yet what is unclear is who holds responsibility for it.

Criticism has grown over the failure of various large-scale projects, such as bauxite development, as well as the corruption of state-owned enterprises. This has pressured the government to respond, so in March it convened a meeting in which "ministers will answer the people's questions." When asked about the stalled bauxite development, Vu Huy Hoang, minister of Industry and Trade, said the reasons for the failure were that it was "a first-time trial in Vietnam," that Vietnam had "no experience managing such an enormous amount of funds (worth tens of billions of dollars)" and that the project "has complex technical requirements." The same could also be said of nuclear power plant construction.

Early this year I organized a conference in Hanoi on resource development and environmental policy, with the help of the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade as well as Japanese universities and research institutes. However, the ministry flatly refused to put the bauxite development problem on the agenda and would not allow experts or intellectuals critical of the project to attend. It would not even accept participation by the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which is tasked with dealing with environmental issues. I wanted to create an opportunity for promoters and critics of the project to sit at the same table and engage in an open discussion, but from the planning phase our attempts were doomed.

Vietnamese intellectuals who continue to oppose bauxite development are also sharing information on the Chernobyl and Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accidents and voicing their opposition to nuclear power plant construction projects that Russia and Japan are carrying out in Ninh Thuan province. But the central figures are already under surveillance by the Vietnamese public security service, which has unlawfully arrested some and searched their homes.

The prevailing trend in the countries of the world is to try and achieve inclusive governance on resolving problems related to major resource and energy development projects. This involves putting the government and companies, local residents and ethnic minorities, as well as experts, intellectuals, citizens, NGOs, international institutions and such, on an equal footing. The Vietnamese government, however, which says it has a foreign policy of "active involvement in the international community," is in fact moving in the opposite direction. In the more than 20 years during which I have observed this country, the Vietnamese government's predisposition to try and cover up inconvenient truths is fundamentally unchanged. The construction of the nuclear power plants, wrapped in a political climate with inadequate disclosure of information and the suppression of free speech, is already plagued with serious problems before they can even produce technological or economic results. Japan needs to understand the situation in Vietnam and then reconsider how to cooperate with such a partner.

Asahi Shinbun, Published: June 25, 2013
Debate suppressed in Vietnam, questions on Japanese cooperation
By Ari Nakano, a professor at Daito Bunka University

Here in Malaysia, Mr Yahho has the extreme concern on the bauxite mining operation in Pahang which have serious problems, especially on people's health and safety of foods like fish:

TURNING a blind eye to the bauxite mining operations in Kuantan has led to a public health scare. If not immediately addressed, the long-term effect is the proliferation of cancer incidents caused by ecosystem contamination. In an industry that has been around for well over a century, worldwide, this state of affairs is unforgivable. What is more, the Pahang menteri besar says action will depend on what the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) finds after its investigation into the public health threat that the bauxite mining there presents. But, why wait for the AELB to concur with tests that have already shown early signs of radiation poisoning? Wisdom, one would have thought, should dictate immediate action to prevent the situation from worsening. To make matters worse, Terengganu has caught the illegal bauxite mining fever, too...

Granted, land is a state matter, but surely public health is a federal jurisdiction. The ministry must have statistics showing the effects of the contamination on the local population. For example, increases in respiratory disorders from the polluted air and other unusual diseases related to consumption of contaminated food items. Nevertheless, even without these statistics, the results of the tests should have rung alarm bells.

When the rare earth operation near Ipoh, Perak was found to cause birth defects, the government stepped in and closed it. Do similar resulting disabilities to the public have to surface before action can be taken to stop the unregulated bauxite mining?

The threat to public health is well known to the industry. Elsewhere in the world, the mining of bauxite ore is regulated. In Australia, mining companies must commit themselves to a plan that will protect public health and preserve the environment.

But, not so in this country, where profits apparently take precedence over public health and the environment. It seems clear that standard operating procedures (SOP) do not exist, because MOH’s impotence suggests this. Its concern that cancer incidence will increase as a result must surely have kicked in some action if SOPs exist.

Instead, only the recent disclosures on illegal bauxite mines by this newspaper has elicited strong but futile statements from the ministry. This is nothing other than neglect of public welfare.

The New Straits Times, Published: Saturday, August 8, 2015
Prioritise health above profit
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/95224

KUANTAN: Pahang cannot immediately put a stop to bauxite mining because it has to consider those earning a living off it, says Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

The Mentri Besar said bauxite mining generated economic activities that had spin-off effects in the state.

“For example, we can see lorry drivers who used to earn RM1,500 to RM2,000 a month now taking home RM7,000 to RM8,000,” Adnan said at his office here yesterday.

Petrol kiosks, workshops and hawkers are also doing good business because of the mining activities.

Adnan was responding to a news report alleging that unregulated mining had released radioactive materials into the environment, with rivers and roads tainted red by lorries transporting bauxite.

Bauxite, or aluminium ore, is the world’s primary source of aluminium.

He said Felda Bukit Goh settlers had also pleaded with him to allow them to carry out bauxite mining on their land, located about 50km from Kuantan Port.

“The problem is in fact very simple. It is caused by lorry drivers who do not adhere to regulations and who do not have ethical values.”

Otherwise, everything will be all right..."

The Star, Published: Friday August 7, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
MB: No halt to bauxite mining
By Ong Han Sean

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Mapping the Death Railway

Location: Muang County, Kanchanaburi Province (128 km west of Bangkok)

If you are looking to maximize Bangkok sightseeing to nearby provinces, many tour operators would reckon a one-day trip to the world’s infamous Death Railway, the tragic Thailand-Burma rail route that claimed the lives of thousands of Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) as well as even greater numbers of civilians forced to work on the project. The 415-km long track traverses steep hills and deep valleys. Part of it is known as the Bridge over the River Kwai.

River Kwai Bridge or Death Railway

NAM TOK, Thailand (AP) − Wielding a machete, Rod Beattie slashes at tangled undergrowth and soaring bamboo to expose vistas from one of World War II's iconic sagas. Out of the jungle appear remnants of a railway that cost the lives of more than 100,000 Allied prisoners and Asians enslaved by Japan's Imperial Army.

As the 70th anniversary of the war's end approaches and its veterans dwindle by the day, the aging Australian still slogs along the 415-kilometer (257-mile) length of "Death Railway." With his own money, he maps its vanishing course, uncovers POW relics and with his vast database helps brings closure to relatives of the dead − not only those who perished building the railway, but also those who went to their graves never having shared their traumas.

Beattie acknowledges to being a man obsessed.

"The life I have given isn't just for them but for their descendants," he says. "Their children are now at an age where they have retired. They've got time to ask questions − 'Where was my father? What happened to him?'" And many, bringing along their own children and even grandchildren, are making what Beattie calls pilgrimages to the railway to seek answers, find peace and shed tears.

One daughter he escorted was able to learn for the first time exactly where her father, Pvt. Jack McCarthy, died on July 21, 1943, of what diseases and where he was initially buried.

Then Beattie took her to his final resting place, beneath a headstone brightened by a single poppy. Another daughter recently came fixated on whether wild bananas contained black seeds the POWs would suck for sustenance. It was something her father often recounted. When they found some, it seemed to authenticate and illuminate all that her father told her about his ordeal.

"It made her very happy," Beattie said.

Arguably the world's authority on this drama of inhumanity and courage in a green hell, this one-man band has also busted myths and plain inaccuracies that have accumulated around the railway. Some are drawn from a still-ongoing parade of memoirs, novels and films, from the classic 1957 movie classic "The Bridge on the River Kwai" to "The Railway Man" in 2013 and "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," a novel that won Britain's top literary prize last year.

He's driven, he says, "for history's sake. To give people a true version of the story. After I leave or pass away, who would otherwise know where the railway was?"

Beattie, 67, clambers down a steep slope where the track has been replaced by a rolling field of tapioca. Within 15 minutes, aided by a metal detector and pickax, he uncovered 11 relics under the reddish soil, including railway staples and bolts. He also gathered clues to the location of a labor camp, Tampii South, that he has yet to pinpoint.

Tampii South was among a string of POW camps along the railway, which the Japanese regarded as a strategic supply line from Japanese-controlled Thailand to their forces in Myanmar as Allied warships made the sea route around the Malay Peninsula increasingly hazardous. Completed in 15 months, the railway was an incredible feat of engineering and human toil.

More than 12,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American prisoners died along with an estimated 90,000 Asians, including Tamils from Malaysia, Burmese and Indonesians − some 250 corpses for every kilometer of track. Working with primitive tools and their bare hands, the prisoners succumbed to cholera, beriberi, starvation, executions and despair.

A civil engineer in Australia, Beattie arrived in Thailand in 1990 to work as a consultant in the gems industry. He settled in the western Thailand town of Kanchanaburi, a key railway terminus and site of the infamous bridge on the River Kwai. His passion was kindled by the history around him and his own background: two of his uncles had been killed and his father twice wounded in World War II. Beattie himself served in the Australian military for six years.

In the mid-1990s, with machetes and chain saws, he and his Vietnamese wife, Thuy, eight months pregnant, cleared 4.5 kilometers (2 miles) of rail bed at a rock cutting known as Hellfire Pass, paving the way for a memorial and museum there. In 2003, he opened the Thailand-Burma Railway Center in Kanchanaburi, both a research facility and a superb museum incorporating some of the thousands of artifacts he had uncovered.

Although Japanese atrocities are graphically depicted, it is not a mere museum of horrors. Japanese soldiers also suffered hardships and savage commanders, and not all are portrayed as brutes. The exhibits include rare photographs provided by a Japanese engineer on the railway.

Beattie has corrected misconceptions about the railway that had made it into a number of history books, including some that flatly state that Japanese guards killed 68 Australian POWs at Hellfire Pass. He proved that the guards killed no Australians there by going through a database of 105,000 records of nearly every prisoner in Southeast Asia.

Beattie found that Allied POW records were so sketchy that some relatives even had false information about where their fathers died. He said the index cards that Japan's Imperial Army kept on every POW sometimes have proved more helpful than Australian officialdom. He also dug into archives around the world including hospital and burial records, cemetery maps, regimental documents and diaries to reconstruct the tortured odysseys of thousands. He offers them to any who want to know, and has received decorations from Australia, the Netherlands and Great Britain for his work.

Beattie's ongoing work includes a detailed GPS mapping of the entire rail line that in Thailand is 60 percent completed. Earlier, logging more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) on foot, he plotted the Thai end and some of the Myanmar stretch on a 1:50,000 map.

"Probably when I die," he says when asked when he'll halt his self-imposed mission.

Beattie's labors seem a race against the clock: The railway is vanishing along with those who built it.

Over the past two decades, he says, most sections disappeared, overtaken by the jungle or covered over by farms, roads and a large dam. In Australia, only some 200 ex-railway POWs are still alive; worldwide, the youngest one Beattie knows about is 89. Only two survivors attended commemorations this year in Kanchanaburi on ANZAC Day, April 25, the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. In times past, there might be dozens.

But earlier in the year, 34 Australians, mostly children of POWs, gathered at the main Allied cemetery in Kanchanaburi town for a simple, moving service among the 6,982 graves. Some wore the medals of fathers they never knew: They were conceived before their fathers left for war or were simply too young to remember them. They sought information from Beattie.

It was the first trip to the River Kwai for Elizabeth Pietsch, whose father died in 2013 at the age of 95.

"He never talked about it very much, but when he did, tears would well up in his eyes," she said. "He went on to be a chartered accountant, a very successful man, but it was always there, the elephant in the room... It was the defining time of his life."

ABC News, Published: Aug 10, 2015, 2:26 AM ET
Australian in Thailand Devotes Life to 'Death Railway' POWs
By DENIS D. GRAY Associated Press

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to revise the pacifist constitution

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki that claimed over 74,000 lives, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came under fire for his attempts to expand the military’s role...

“As the only country attacked with an atomic bomb in war, I am renewing our determination to lead the global effort for nuclear disarmament, to create a world without such weapons,” Abe said in his speech.

He said Japan would still abide by its long-held principles: not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

Abe was criticised for failing to mention the three principles at a ceremony days earlier in Hiroshima, alarming atomic bomb survivors – particularly when the nationalist leader is trying to push through legislation to extend the military’s role.

Nagasaki survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi, 86, lashed out at Abe’s government for trying to revise the pacifist constitution, accusing it of returning Japan to the state before the end of World War II.

“The security Bills the government is trying to push through would jeopardise our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and the hopes of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors),” he said.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also criticised the government as Abe listened.

“Worries and anxieties are now spreading among us that this pledge made 70 years ago and the principle for peace in the Japanese constitution may be now undermined,” he said to loud applause.

Abe has faced criticism and opposition for his attempts to expand the role of his pacifist country’s so-called Self-Defence Forces, which would allow them to engage in combat – to defend an ally under attack – for the first time since the war.

A constitution imposed by a post-war US occupation force prevented the military from engaging in combat except in national self-defence.

In the now bustling port city of Nagasaki, about 74,000 people died in the initial blast near a major arms factory from a plutonium bomb nicknamed “Fat Man”. Thousands of others perished months or years later from radiation sickness.

The attack on Nagasaki came three days after the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a bomb dubbed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima in history’s first atomic bombing.

The twin bombings dealt the final blows to imperial Japan, which surrendered on Aug 15, 1945, to bring an end to World War II.

The Star, Published: Monday August 10, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Abe rapped over military plans;
PM comes under fire as Japan marks 70th anniversary of Nagasaki bombing

NAGANO (AFP) - Trapped in the jungle tomb of his plane, shot down by US forces in Guadalcanal in 1942, Japanese fighter pilot Kaname Harada understood the full horror of war.

Pinned beneath the wreckage in the Solomon Islands during some of the most intense fighting of World War II, he fought to dig himself free.

“All of my fingernails came off and I could see the bones, but I dug and dug to survive.”

Now, he and other men who fought Japan’s hopeless Pacific War worry that a country in the throes of re-invigorating its military has forgotten the true terror of conflict.

Harada, 98, regularly gives talks about his experiences during WWII, fearful that generations of Japanese who have grown up in a wealthy, safe country know nothing of the vile hopelessness of war.

Harada said he realised his “obligation” to warn people war always creates many casualties “and to tell them how important peace is”.

Similarly, Shigeru Mizuki, 93, uses manga to spread his message of the horror of war.

In his works, including the award-winning Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Mizuki recounts his often harrowing experiences as a soldier sent to New Britain island, now part of Papua New Guinea.

“I sincerely hope that innocent children will never have to endure the kind of suffering and war that afflicted us,” Harada said.

The Star, Published: Monday August 10, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Ex-WWII soldiers fight for peace

The anniversary of the Nagasaki attack will be commemorated at the city’s Peace Park on Sunday with a ceremony that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will attend.

Critics have contended that the Japanese were sending signals that they were prepared to surrender, but that these were either missed or ignored, and that the United States wanted to demonstrate to the world − particularly the Soviet Union − the awesome power it had at its disposal.

We received thousands of responses, including justifications, condemnations, indictments and explanations. And though the 70 years since the bombings have helped provide perspective − and more historical knowledge about what was happening at that time in the war − they have not yielded much consensus.

Here are excerpts from selected responses, lightly edited for clarity...

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 8, 2015
On 70th Anniversary of Nagasaki Bombing, Atomic Debate Yields Little Consensus

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new Mt Kinabalu trail

Kota Kinabalu: The families of 2 Sabah mountain guides who perished during the Mt Kinabalu earthquake on June 5 yesterday expressed their gratitude to Singapore for honouring their memories.

Ricky Masirin and Valerian Joannes were honoured by the Sinagapore government on its 50th National Day yeasterdy.

Valerian's financee, Jessica Sikta, said she knew about the recognition from Valerian's employer 2 days ago, adding that it was unexpected.

"There are no words to describe how thankful we are.

"We are still saddened by his death, but with this recognition, we are proud of him."

She said it was hard to let go and all shu could do was to continue praying for Valerian.

Sikta said since his death, she had dreamed about Valerian 8 times, and he had told her "to be happy".

"He wants me to be strong and I need to be strong in ordet to cope.

"I may not be able to repay Singapore for what they have done and this means a lot to Valerin's family."

Bester Joannes, 26, said the family was indeed surprised when they were informed about the recognition.

"We talkd about it and we ralked about who would be going to Singapore to represent Valerian.

"My brother was a humble person.

"I believe he would be surprised and happy to know that the Singapore government is honouring him."

In the earthqyuake on June 5, 18 climbers were killed.

5 of them were Singaporean pupils and a techer, who were guided by Valerian and Ricky.

New Straits Times, Published: Monday, August 10. 2015
Singapore govt honours fallen Mt Kinabalu guides

KUNDASANG, SABAH: AMID misty and windy conditions with temperatures around 10 degrees centigrade, a group of climbers successfully made the test ascend to Mount Kinabalu.

This means the first hurdle towards the reopening of the earthquake-hit mountain by September 1 has been successful. The climbers used the rehabilitated six-kilometre trail from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata.

A group of 88 climbers from Sabah Parks, families of guides, as well as the media, scaled up to the Laban Rata rest house at the 3,272m point of the 4,095m mountain yesterday. Most parts of the trail were intact, though slippery due to rain over the past few days.

This was the first group on the expedition trial up the mountain after its closure following the six Richter scale earthquake that killed 18 people, including guides and trekkers.

The trial climb, which was flagged off by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun at 8.15am, was carried out under strict guidelines that all climbers were to make it back to Timpohon Gate by 2pm for safety reasons.

Most climbers found the climb smooth, with the first 1,000m trail undisturbed by the quake.

Signs of it only emerged from 1,500m onwards. Upon reaching the 1.5km mark, a section of the route had fallen off the cliff and a new path had been cut out.

Damaged paths caused by falling trees were cleared off to allow trekkers to move in pairs. However, not all managed to reach Laban Rata in the four hours, but those who reached said that the trail was safe and secure for climbers.

But, now the next hurdle was to get the mountain re-opened by the deadline. This will depend on how fast Sabah Parks can carve out a new trail from Laban Rata to the summit.

Masidi said that his ministry and Sabah Parks would decide on a suitable date to commence repair works on the damaged trail after holding a technical meeting tomorrow.

“They will put in place a timeframe for repair works to be completed.”

However, it is becoming clearer that Sabah Parks will not allow overnight stays at Laban Rata and will also limit the number of climbers in the early stages.

Masidi said they were also getting feedback from experts from Japan and China on the best methods and what was required to fix the trail.

Brunei Times, Published: Monday, August 10, 2015
88 make successful test climb on Mount Kinabalu

Please refer to Mr Yahho's Blog as Diary dated August 4, 2015 under the title of "global warming", remains of long-missing mountaineers have increasingly surfaced as a result of receding glaciers,

Mr Yahho, one of the mountaineers, recommends you today to read the following article:

Two Japanese mountain climbers caught in a snowstorm and buried under nearly half a century of Alpine ice have been identified, the police in Switzerland announced this week.

The remains of Masayuki Kobayashi, 21, who disappeared in a blizzard in 1970 while climbing the north face of the Matterhorn, and his trekking partner, Michio Oikawa, 22, were identified with DNA tests after a mountaineer discovered their remains at the foot of the mountain last year, the police said on Thursday.

The two men had been members of the Club Alpin Français, a mountain sports organization, according to the Swiss newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

They left their hut at the base camp in Hörnli in the early afternoon on Aug. 18, 1970, to climb what is considered the most difficult path up the mountain. They ascended an additional 3,000 feet from base camp to an altitude of around 13,800 feet (or 4,200 meters) up the 14,692-foot peak before a snowstorm hit and observers lost contact with the climbers. Friends had hoped that they had made it to a nearby emergency refuge in time. But six days later, a friend reported that they were missing.

“They were probably surprised by a snowstorm when they disappeared,” a Swiss police spokesman, Stéphane Vouardoux, told Reuters on Friday. “The snowstorm lasted a few days which prevented the rescue teams from searching.”

At the time of the climbers’ disappearance, helicopters flew over the area for several days, searching for signs of life in the fresh snow, according to Swiss news reports about the search. More than a week after Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Oikawa were last seen on the mountain, searchers found a helmet and a backpack that reportedly belonged to Mr. Oikawa about 40 yards from the summit.

Almost 45 years later, genetic material from bones found by a climber in melting glacial ice last September was matched by Swiss forensic examiners to DNA provided by the Japanese climbers’ relatives.

The police attributed the discovery of the bones last year to shrinking glaciers, which, as they melt, reveal bodies, body parts and other artifacts that have long been buried.

One of those discoveries in 1991 by tourists in the Ötztal Alps unearthed the remains of a man, nicknamed Ötzi by scientists, that had been preserved for more than 5,000 years under ice. More recently, a helicopter pilot found the body of a British climber named Jonathan Conville, who disappeared in 1979 while hiking up the same perilous north face of the Matterhorn.

The mountain has lured adventurous climbers since before the first successful ascent of the peak 150 years ago. Last month, the authorities closed the mountain to observe the anniversary of that first ascent by a team of seven men led by the Englishman Edward Whymper.

After reaching the summit on July 14, 1865, four members of Whymper’s team slipped and fell to their deaths on their way back down the mountain. Since then, the Matterhorn and its surrounding areas have become a major draw for ambitious climbers and tourists alike. As more and more climbers tried to reach the mountain’s summit, the Matterhorn became known as one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, with nearly 600 people killed trying to reach the top since the mountain was first conquered.

In the last decade, about a dozen people have died each year on the mountain, down from two dozen a year in the 1990s, Benedikt Perren, head of the Zermatt Mountain Guides Association, told The New York Times last month.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 7, 2015
Swiss Identify Remains of Japanese Climbers Missing for 45 Years

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Lee Hee-ho

SEOUL, South Korea − The 92-year-old widow of Kim Dae-jung, the South Korean president who championed political reconciliation with North Korea, arrived in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, on Wednesday amid cautious hopes that her trip might help thaw relations between the two countries.

Lee Hee-ho, the former first lady, was not carrying any official proposal on behalf of the South Korean government, and her delegation did not include a current government official from Seoul. The publicized itinerary of her four-day trip included visits to a children’s hospital, orphanage and maternity clinic but no formal meetings with senior North Korean officials.

But given her status, analysts monitoring her trip wondered whether the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, would meet her or even send a message to the South through her. Initially, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported only her arrival in Pyongyang.

Ms. Lee’s delegation took a chartered plane that made a rare trip across the border of the two Koreas, along the Korean Peninsula’s western coast.

During his presidency, Kim Dae-jung, a respected figure among liberal South Koreans who generally supported engagement with the North, flew to Pyongyang in 2000 and hugged the current leader’s father, Kim Jong-il, in the first inter-Korean summit meeting. He was awarded that year’s Nobel Peace Prize for bringing a rapprochement to the divided peninsula.

His “Sunshine Policy,” which included generous aid shipments for the North and a flurry of inter-Korean projects, like tearful reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, continued through the administration of his liberal successor, Roh Moo-hyun. Mr. Roh met Kim Jong-il for a second summit meeting in 2007.

The policy crumbled when South Koreans voted for conservative leadership that began with the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak in 2008 and has continued under the incumbent president, Park Geun-hye. Both Mr. Lee and Ms. Park criticized the “Sunshine Policy” as coddling the North and allowing its nuclear weapons program to proceed.

North Korea retreated into belligerent isolation, cutting off humanitarian exchanges with the South and conducting nuclear and long-range missile tests, as well as shelling a South Korean island in 2010. Efforts to improve relations since then have made little progress, as the mutual mistrust has remained deep.

Ms. Lee “hopes that her visit opens the way for more dialogues, exchanges and cooperation,” Kim Sung-jae, a former South Korean culture minister who is part of her delegation, told reporters in Seoul before boarding the flight to Pyongyang on Wednesday.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 5, 2015
Former First Lady of South Korea Visits Pyongyang in Good-Will Trip

SEOUL (AFP) - The widow of late South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung returned home Saturday from a rare trip to North Korea but her hoped-for meeting with leader Kim Jong-Un failed to come off.

Lee Hee-Ho's four-day visit was ostensibly humanitarian but there had been much speculation about a possible meeting with Kim, who personally invited her.

However, her aides said she had had no chance of seeing the young leader during the trip.

Lee's husband is best remembered for his "sunshine" policy of engagement with the isolated but nuclear-armed North that led to a historic summit between him and Kim Jong-Un's late father Kim Jong-Il in 2000.

Lee said she visited the North as a private civilian and had not been assigned any official duty.

"However, I made the trip with a view to dedicating to the spirit of the June 15 declaration", she said in a statement on returning to Seoul, referring to an inter-Korean agreement for peace and reconciliation signed at the end of the landmark summit.

After arriving in Pyongyang, Lee had visited hospitals caring for children and young mothers.

"Holding the hands of innocent, beaming children there, I deeply felt we should not pass the pain of the division of the motherland on to the next generations", she said.

"I hope all the Korean people put their minds together to overcome divisions and achieve reunification through reconciliation, cooperation and love, as was declared in the June 15 declaration", added the 93-year-old former first lady.

The "sunshine" policy was largely abandoned when a conservative administration took power in South Korea in 2008 and cross-border ties soured.

A series of nuclear and missile launches by the North in recent years as well as occasional military clashes have kept tensions high.

Lee had visited the North three times before, the last trip being to pay respects during the funeral of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011.

At the time, she briefly met with Kim Jong-Un while he was receiving mourners.

I hope all the Korean people put their minds together to overcome divisions and achieve reunification through reconciliation, cooperation and love, as was declared in the June 15 declaration.
Lee Hee-Ho

AFP 08 Aug 2015
Former S. Korean first lady fails to meet N. Korea leader

Meanwhile, please refer to Mr Yahho's Blog as Diary dated 8 August 2015 under the title of "Japanese surrender", 'Third fact sheet from UK'(Pyongyang Time):

South Korea had similarly changed its standard time in 1954 – again to reflect the break from Japanese rule – but reverted to Japan standard time in 1961 after Park Chung-Hee came to power in a military coup.

Park’s rationale was partly that the two major US allies in the region – South Korea and Japan – should be grouped in the same time zone to facilitate operational planning.

Analysts said Pyongyang’s time shift was aimed at shoring up the official narrative that paints North Korea as the pure, “authentic” Korea and the South as a land polluted by foreign domination.

“The North has always sought to project this image of being more aggressive in wiping out traces of Japanese colonial rule,” said Yang Moo-Jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“So this falls in line with its claim to be the only legitimate Korean regime on the peninsula, and its dismissal of the South as a ‘puppet regime’ still sticking to corrupt colonial practices,” Yang said.

For South Koreans opposed to the long-time presence of US forces, it is a charge that strikes close to the bone, and some took to news portals and social networks to praise Pyongyang’s move.

“This time the North has actually done something right,” commented one reader on the country’s largest Internet news portal, Naver.

“I hope we can do the same and reclaim our own standard time,” wrote another.

The Straits Times, Published: Aug 7, 2015, 10:37 am SGT
North Korea turns back its clocks to 'Pyongyang Time'

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Freedom of expression

Please refer to Mr Yahho's Blog as Diary dated 6 August 2015 under the title of "Stories of atomic bombing". Mr Yahho found a following letter addressed to New Straits Times:

I REFER to the article “Never again Hiroshima, Nagasaki” by Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy (NST, Aug 6).

He says: “It began on Aug 6, 1945, when the United States detonated a uranium bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, completely destroying it and instantly killing about 100,000 people. Three days later, a second nuclear experiment was carried out when a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, which incinerated the city and its population”.

These were not experiments. They were the real stuff. The experiments, development and detonation of the bombs were carried out earlier as part of the Manhattan Project under the codename Trinity in the United States in July 1945, with success.

He went on to say: “Japan was on the brink of surrendering, but the imperatives of military science, devoid of moral constraints, had to be satisfied”. Dr McCoy is clearly biased in his views. He is only looking at one side of the coin. The Japanese Army then knew not the meaning of “surrender”. On the contrary, its leaders were mobilising a whole generation of youthful Japanese men to self-abnegation and cast-iron loyalty to the Japanese command to kill themselves in attacks on Allied ships. They were Kamikaze pilots. The good doctor is misled into thinking that, “Japan was on the brink of surrendering”. War is war. It is ugly. If “moral constraints” were applicable, why did Japan make a surprise uncalled-for attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbour in 1941, which forced America into World War 2?

By early 1944, although it appeared that the tide of battle was turning against Japan, Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, we are told, “stood firmly opposed to increasing sentiment in favour of negotiation”. So, Dr McCoy’s notion that Japan “was on the brink of surrendering” is a figment of his imagination.

US President Harry Truman had to make a difficult decision. If he had to invade Japan by conventional means, he needed a million troops or so. And a good percentage of them would end up dead. So would the Japanese. He was aware that the atomic bomb would cause widespread death and suffering if it was used, but he had no choice. Sometimes, we have to be cruel in the short term to be kind in the long run.

I am sure Dr McCoy is aware of the atrocities committed by the Japanese troops on the warfront. The Death Railway built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project intended to improve communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma.

During its construction, some 13,000 POWs died. Some 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project − chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or roped in from Siam and Burma. These slave workers were treated inhumanely. They were made to slog in unspeakable conditions with little or no food. Many died of sickness; others were beaten to death.

The A-bombs brought the war to an abrupt end. Thousands may have died in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the writer seems oblivious to the fact that hundreds of thousands more would have died if the war was prolonged.

Tojo was judged a “Class A war criminal”, and before his execution, admitted to the atrocities caused by his men and apologised for them, and urged the Americans to
show compassion to the Japanese people.

Dr McCoy wants all nuclear weapons to be banned. But can you “ban” the knowledge of how to manufacture them? With data stored in computers, the assembling of an A- bomb is a walk in the park. A more realistic method would be the non-proliferation of such weapons of mass destruction. At the end of the day, it would only be a gentleman’s agreement.

New Straits Times, Updated: 8 August 2015 at 12:36 PM
Japan ‘on brink of surrender’ inaccurate
DR A Soorian,Seremban, Negri Sembilan

Reading this letter in the Newspaper, Mr Yahho became suddenly happy because they could say each other whats need to be said and the media has had a mind to carry on their paper! The reader should think about it by themselves.

... let’s see what they say “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy” means.

“’Activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy’ means an activity carried out by a person or a group of persons designed to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by violent or unconstitutional means”.

Alright, no argument from me about criminalising violent over throw of government (although I am quite sure we have laws for that already). By this I presume they mean with the use of weapons; something like a military coup. But what does “unconstitutional means” mean?

You see, the way I see it a parliamentary democracy needs to have certain things to exist. A fair electoral system is the most obvious. But it also needs the freedom of expression. This is especially true if those doing the expressing are concerned about issues of governance. All this is actually protected in our Constitution. When we go to vote, do we want to vote in honest people or dishonest people? Do we want to vote in competent people or incompetent people? Now, if there is no freedom of expression then how would we know if those who are putting themselves up for election are either honest or competent?

Simple right?

Brave New World, 5 August 2015
The Unofficial Archive of Azmi Sharom's Public Writings

Also please read today's Star under the title "Azmi Sharom: Saying what needs to be said":

Furthermore, please refer to the article about journalists and activists seeking the freedom of expression in Malaysia from the same daily "The Star" of today, taking into consideration Mr Yahho's Blog as Diary dated 25 July 2015 under the title of "press freedom.

KUALA LUMPUR: Hundreds of journalists and activists turned up at the 808 rally here to show their support for press freedom.

The group, which came dressed in black and blue, gathered at Central Market at about 11am yesterday before marching peacefully to the Bar Council office in Leboh Pasar.

Bearing placards and banners, the group called for the lifting of the suspension against The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, as well as the unblocking of the Sarawak Report website.

The rally, organised by the Coalition of Press Freedom, was called 808 as it was held on Aug 8.

The coalition is a loose grouping of media groups comprising:
Gera-kan Media Marah (Geramm),
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ),
Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia and
Reporters San Front-ieres.

Its member Radzi Razak thanked the police for allowing the group to gather.

“Many turned up to give support to press freedom. We need to defend the freedom of press just like other countries,” he said.

Global Movement of Moderates chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who was also present, said the media had a vital role to play in democracy and in giving information to the rakyat.

“The media is not meant to bother or disturb anyone,” he said.

The participants of the rally dispersed at about 12.30pm.

Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Zainol Samah said there were no untoward incidents during the rally.

“However, we will still check if they have broken any terms set by police,” he said.

The Star, Published: Sunday August 9, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Hundreds turn out for press freedom rally
by Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi

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Japanese surrender

First fact sheet from Australia:

Many historians say the bombings did not lead to the Japanese surrender, and the Soviet declaration of war on Japan two days later was a bigger shock.

It put an end to any hope the Soviets would negotiate a favourable surrender for Japan.

The severely-weakened Japanese Imperial army had no capacity to fight the Soviets on a second front in China and Northern Japan.

Japanese historian Yuki Tanaka said the country had no choice because the Soviets would have killed Emperor Hirohito, seen as the heart and soul of imperial Japan.

"The Soviet Union would demolish the emperor system and they would execute the emperor as well as all members of the royal family," he said.

America believed the shock and awe of the devastating power of the new bombs would force Japan into surrender, but experts say inside Japan it was viewed differently.

The Americans had already destroyed 66 Japanese cities with a massive fire bombing campaign.

In just one night, 100,000 civilians were killed in Tokyo.

Tokyo's Temple University director of Asian Studies Jeffery Kingston said the new bombs would not have had the impact the Americans would have hoped.

"If you look at it from the perspective of the Japanese military, it doesn't really make a big difference whether people are dying from fire bombing or atomic bombs ... it is [just] two additional city centres that are destroyed," he said.

The atomic bombings probably did play a part in averting a bloody ground invasion and saving thousands of US lives, but historians like Dr Kinston said the bombs were also about sending a message to the Soviets.

"We have this incredible new weapon, we have a monopoly on it and we are going to emerge as the strongest superpower. In a sense, this was the opening salvo of the Cold War," he said.

On the eve of 70th anniversary, the children of Hiroshima sing for a future free of nuclear weapons, but today more countries than ever have the bomb.

America's atomic attacks on Japan started a nuclear arms race which bought the world to the brink of destruction...

Most historians agree the official version from the US government − that the bombs were dropped to force an early surrender and saved up to a million American lives from a bloody invasion − is far too simplistic.

Mr Tanaka said it was a criminal act under international law.

"Also, morally it was wrong. So they have to find some non-legal arguments to self-justify the conduct, that they annihilated 210,000 civilians," he said.

The debate in academic circles now is how much other factors came into play in America becoming the first and still the only nation to drop the atomic bomb in warfare.

Updated Wed at 8:27am
Hiroshima atomic bombing did not lead to Japanese surrender, historians argue nearing 70th anniversary
By North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney

Second fact sheet from Hong Kong:

Recently, Japan’s Imperial Household released a DVD set containing a re-mastered and digitized version of Emperor Hirohito’s speech that was recorded for national broadcast on the eve of Japan’s surrender thus ending WWII. The actual broadcast was made on Aug. 15, 1945 marking the official end of the war.

The media simply adored the statement the Emperor made toward the end of his speech, “… to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” The poetic meter of the enduring and suffering tugged their heart strings and was often quoted and repeated in documentaries and films about the war.

Unfortunately, the context of that quote was to portray the hapless Japanese people as having to endure and suffer the post war trauma of a defeated nation − in others words, another reminder of Japan as a victim of WWII. The Emperor was certainly not referring to the Chinese people having to endure and suffer the eight years of the brutal occupation by the imperial troops before the war ended.

It’s customary for victors to write the history. Japan is proving to be the exception to the rule. Whether deliberate or simply inhibited by his cultural upbringing, the ambiguity of Emperor’s concession speech –certainly not a legitimate surrender proclamation − has allowed Japan to begin revising history. It’s as if denying all the brutalities committed in the past can exonerate the present from any collective guilt. Just the opposite is true. The people of Asia will continue to remind Japan until there is only one version of the tragic history of World War II.

August 1945: Japan’s Hirohito conceded, he did not surrender
By George Koo on August 4, 2015 in China, Japan

Third fact sheet from UK:

North Korea is currently in the same time zone as South Korea and Japan, which are nine hours ahead of GMT.

But Pyongyang Time will see the clocks put back by 30 minutes on 15 August.

State news agency KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) said "wicked Japanese imperialists" had "deprived Korea of even its standard time" by changing the clocks during occupation.

The entire Korean peninsula - then one country - was 8.5 hours ahead of GMT until Japan colonised it in 1910.

KCNA quoted officials as saying the decision to adopt Pyongyang Time reflected "the unshakeable faith and will of the service personnel and people on the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation".

South Korea said the move could cause some short-term inconvenience at the Kaesong industrial plant in North Korea, jointly run by the two Koreas.

"And in the longer term, there may be some fallout for efforts to unify standards and reduce differences between the two sides," Unification Ministry official Jeong Joon-Hee said.

'Fair share of sunshine'
There is no international body that approves a country's change of time zone as countries decide for themselves.

In 2011, Samoa changed its time zone to the other side of the international dateline, losing one day, so as to make communication easier with neighbours Australia and New Zealand.

And North Korea is not the only country that has created its own unique time zone.

In 2007, Venezuela decided to turn its clocks back by half an hour as President Hugo Chavez wanted to have a "more fair distribution of the sunrise" to residents.

Venezuela is now the only country with a time zone 4.5 hours behind GMT.

BBC News, 7 August 2015
North Korea's new time zone to break from 'imperialism';
North Korea is to switch to a new time zone to mark its liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War Two, says state media.

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Abe's peace is a phony peace!

...a visit to Hiroshima by President Obama himself, which many in Japan hoped would follow, never came − much less an apology by the United States for dropping the bombs. The desire for an apology has persisted here even as Japan struggles to come to terms with atrocities committed by its own forces during World War II.

Mr. Abe is also pursuing unpopular policies on two issues linked closely in the public’s mind with the bombings: national defense and nuclear energy. Small groups of demonstrators gathered at the edge of the ceremony grounds to protest moves by his government to pare back postwar restrictions on the military and to restart nuclear power plants idled after meltdowns at a plant in Fukushima in 2011.

Kohei Oiwa, an 83-year-old bombing survivor, sat silently through Mr. Abe’s remarks at the ceremony but criticized him bluntly afterward. He condemned legislation now before Parliament that would allow Japanese forces to fight overseas, in limited situations, for the first time since the war. And he criticized as hypocritical the government’s repeated pledges to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. Japan, he noted, accepts the protection of the United States, its former enemy turned close ally, including the deterrent provided by the American nuclear arsenal.

Abe’s peace is a phony peace,” Mr. Oiwa said as he waited in line to lay a bouquet of flowers in front of the eternal flame.

Such sentiments are widely shared by other survivors. After the ceremony, the leaders of seven groups representing survivors delivered a letter to Mr. Abe demanding that he withdraw the proposed legislation on military deployments. Yet while there are still close to 200,000 officially recognized survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their average age is over 80, and their numbers are quickly dwindling.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 6, 2015
At Hiroshima’s 70th Anniversary, Japan Again Mourns Dawn of Atomic Age
By Jonathan Soble

Still, the bombings have left a searing scar on Japan and caused soul-searching among its people about the country’s wartime actions; the vast majority continue to support the pacifist constitution that was written for Japan by its American occupiers.

Abe is now trying to reinterpret, and eventually revise, Article 9 of that constitution, the part that renounces Japan’s right to engage in war.

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” that article states.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that seven associations of Hiroshima survivors met with Abe on Thursday and demanded that he withdraw the bills clearing the way for the constitutional revision.

Beyond Thursday’s commemorations, Japanese people − and Japan’s neighbors − are looking ahead to a statement that Abe is set to make Aug. 14, the day before the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II. His remarks are already expected to be contentious.

Abe’s predecessors apologized for Japan’s wartime actions in their statements on the 50th and 60th anniversaries. Japan, “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations,” Tomiichi Murayama said in a “heartfelt” apology in 1995.

But Abe has been vague about what he will say, and most of the members of a special panel set up to advise him on his statement say that he need not apologize again, the Kyodo news agency reported. That is because Abe has a “future-oriented” vision, they said.

The Washington Post, Published: August 6
70 years after bomb, Japan's Abe calls for a world without nuclear weapons
By Anna Fifield

BEIJING, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is expected to issue a statement next week to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II on the basis of a report compiled by his advisors.

The 38-page document, written by an advisory panel to the prime minister, has covered an array of issues on the closely-watched statement, but is meticulously avoiding using the term "apology."

If Abe insists on keeping the rhetoric of the report in his statement, Japan will certainly be further alienated by its neighbors and the tension in the region will be exacerbated.

Many Asian countries have shown their concerns that Abe's statement, perhaps one of the most important government statements on WWII since his predecessor Tomiichi Murayama's speech in 1995, will dilute past official apologies.

Abe, a historical revisionist, has reiterated that he would follow the Murayama Statement as a whole but would not repeat such words as "heartfelt apology" or "aggression and colonial rule" in his war anniversary statement since he maintained there is no universal definition for "aggression."

If an apology is absent from the statement, the whole statement would mean nothing to the victims of Japan's atrocities 70 years ago, because apologizing is the only right attitude for Japan in regard to its war past.

To dodge an apology reveals the dangerous attempts of Abe and his ultra-rightist cabinet to distort historical facts for their own interests, namely, pushing their rightist agenda for personal political gains.

In fact, Abe and his government have relentlessly been pushing bills and making extravagant campaigns so that Japan can become a "normal country" and have the right to collective self-defense to bolster the declining U.S. power in the region.

In addition, as Abe's advisors wrote in their report, Tokyo also tries to beautify Japan's aggressive war as a war for Asia's liberation.

"To be sure, many nations in Asia gained independence as a result of the Japanese war from the 1930s up to 1945," the report said.

Instead of apologizing to the victims of its brutal wars, the Japanese government is implying that Asian countries own it a thank-you for liberating them from Western imperialism.

Such a ludicrous notion is derived from the Abe government's dubious reflection on WWII, which lacks sincerity and basic respect for history...

Xinhua, English.news.cn 2015-08-07 16:55:57
Abe's upcoming statement to disappoint Japan's neighbors if owing apology
by Xinhua writer Wang Shang

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new-age orphans

SAGAR ISLAND, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The end for Shibshankar Pal's hopes of clinging to his home in India's Sundarban islands came the night of July 14, 2014, when surging seas advanced on the house he had just reconstructed following floods a year earlier.

A tidal surge of as much as 21 feet – double a normal surge - ripped through the island village and soon swept away his home in Kusumtala village, Namkhana. He and his family fled to a flood shelter for more than three months, but then decided they could not rebuild again.

Instead, they decided to migrate to the slums of Baruipur, the nearest town, leaving the land and village where he and three previous generations had lived. Pal now does odd jobs and his wife travels to Kolkata to work as a maid.

Worsening flooding and storm surges linked to climate change are driving a growing exodus from the low-lying islands facing the Bay of Bengal.

The islands, along with mainland parts of the Sundarbans, are part of a 4,000-square-kilometre UNESCO World Heritage Site, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem and a critical tiger habitat. But for some of the 4.4 million people who live in the Sundarbans, it is time to leave.

“The frequency of floods has increased a lot. Now a simple high tide or a tidal bore will breach the embankments and flood villages, destroy houses, paddy fields, ponds – in effect our livelihoods. It is no longer liveable,” Pal said.

Like thousands living in villages such as Boatkhali, Mousuni, Kusumtala and Pakhirala, he has seen global warming turn high tides and tidal bores – things communities have long lived with – into losses they can no longer survive.

On some islands, population has declined by as much as 13 percent in just over a decade, according to regional data released in 2014 from a 2011 Indian national census.

Those migrating are the young and working-age men and women, leaving behind households of housewives, children and those too old to fend for themselves.

Altogether about 100,000 people have left 60 island villages in the region, officials say.

Meanwhile, adjoining small town areas on the mainland are seeing staggering increases in population. Between 2001 and 2011, Jaynagar town in the Sundarbans saw a 64 percent increase in population, Patharpratima a 51 percent rise, Minakhan a 46 percent increase and Kakdwip a 35 percent rise.

Since worsening tidal and storm surges are not recognised as ‘disasters’ by the state or humanitarian agencies, there has been no aid or relief, despite devastating impacts on homes, infrastructure and the farming, fishing and the fish farms that provide many jobs.

“Because such events aren’t official ‘disasters’, no one addressed the human tragedy except local NGOs. There was no media coverage, no aid or relief,” said Anshuman Das, head of Sabuj Sangha, a non-governmental organisation that is the partner of a European Commission-led disaster risk reduction effort in Sundarbans.

“If a tidal bore can cause this level of damage, one shivers to think what a storm surge or cyclone, all much stronger under the influence of climate change, will lead to,” said Anurag Danda, head of the Sundarban adaptation programme for WWF.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, released last year, predicted higher storm surges, more powerful tidal bores and stronger cyclones in a warming world - but the human tragedies associated with those changes are yet to be as well understood.

“The Sundarbans is sadly a powerful example of how creeping climatic changes accumulate disaster risks. The expansion of environmental threats to social ones highlights an urgent need for governance processes and systems to target this,” said Mark Pelling, a geographer and expert on climate change-induced disasters at Kings College, London.

Secure jobs are one of the casualties of the changes. The share of workers with regular income and employment has declined dramatically in the last decades, from 49.63 percent in 1991 to just 22 percent in 2011, according to the Indian census data.

Meanwhile, marginal workers – who in 1991 represented 10 percent of the workforce, now account for 40 percent of those working, according to 2011 figures.

That loss of jobs and job security has led to surging migration, among not only adult workers but young boys and girls looking for ways to survive and shift their families to safer places.

“There is no land left to cultivate. Fishing and aquaculture have been destroyed. There are no jobs. We have to survive somehow, so the entire work-age population has migrated to Kerala from my village,” said 18-year-old Tarun Kalsha, who migrated from Boatkhali village, along the coast in the Sundarbans region of Sagar.

Kalsha and 25 others from his village work in the construction industry as unskilled labours in Thiruvanantapuram, Kerala, about 2,500 km away from home.

“We live in sub-human conditions. It’s so far away that our families are always worried. But if I learn roofing and tiling work over next few years, I can at least send some money home,” he said.

Kalsha’s family – his mother, a 16-year old sister and two younger brothers back home – are particularly vulnerable as his father died a few years ago. “My sister is also looking for a maid’s job in Kolkata. It’s very tough on me otherwise,” he said.

Sheikh Munir from Beguakhali, Dakshin Aria village, migrated to mainland Kakdwip last year with his wife and daughter after flooding razed his island home. But “only those with enough resources can migrate out with (their) families, which is rare,” he said.

The migrants find little institutional support, in part because the region’s administration is still struggling to figure out how to deal with the rapid change.

“Over the last few years, it has been catastrophic. As more villages cease to exist, people have nowhere to go,” said Bankim Hazra, a legislator from the region and chairman of the Sundarban Affairs Department of the West Bengal government.

“We cannot save many of the inhabited islands with the sea advancing and rising faster than ever, escalating disasters risks,” predicted Kanti Ganguly, who grew up in the region and was the Sundarban Affairs minister between 1997 and 2011.

“About a million living in these islands need to shift elsewhere urgently,” he said.

But finding new homes for that many people is a huge challenge.

“Where can we rehabilitate one million people? We just don't have the land, resources or resilience to absorb such shocks socio-economically. We need aid from the federal government or international community. We cannot budget for climate change at local levels,” Hazra said.

The problems have left Bablu Kayal, 45, envying those facing even worse disasters.

Sitting under the bare bamboo frames of what was the roof of his home, at the edge of an advancing river in Khasimara village, Ghoramara Island, he laments that it was only a tidal bore and not a cyclone that destroyed his home last year for the fifth time in eight years.

“In Odisha (a neighbouring state) they were lucky to have a ‘proper’ cyclone. At least they got some aid, as it was an international event. Sadly I don't even have resources to migrate. We will probably just starve to death if there’s another flood soon,” he said.

The Star, Published: Tuesday April 7, 2015 MYT 2:25:02 PM
'Everyday disasters' driving flight from Sundarbans
By Aditya Ghosh

Climate scientist Dr Sugata Hazra, from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, said the rate of sea-level rise in India and Bangladesh was higher than the global average. “The Sundarbans is one of the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change globally. The changes we are observing include delay in the arrival of monsoon rainfall, increasing intensity and number of cyclone storms and surges, and accelerated rise of relative sea level,” Hazra said.

Only around 100 tigers remain in Bangladesh’s famed Sundarbans forest, far fewer of the endangered animals than previously thought, according to a census.

Some 440 tigers were recorded during the previous census in 2004 in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and one of the last remaining habitats for the big cats.

But experts said better methodology was the reason for the huge drop in the numbers, saying hidden cameras used this time around, rather than pugmarks, gave a much more accurate figure.

Tapan Kumar Dey, the government’s wildlife conservator, said analysis of camera footage from the year-long survey that ended in April found numbers ranged between 83 and 130, giving an average of 106.

“So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans. It’s a more accurate figure,” Dey told Agence France-Presse about the survey, which has not yet been publicly released.

About 74 tigers have previously been counted on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, which makes up nearly 40% of the forest straddling both countries over 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq m).

Bengal tigers live mainly in India, where nationwide there are 2,226, with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.

Monirul Khan, a zoology professor at Bangladesh’s Jahangirnagar University and the nation’s foremost tiger expert, said the survey confirmed his worst fears.

“It seems the population has declined more than we had feared,” Khan said, saying his studies showed the figure was no more than 200.

The Guardian, Published: Monday 27 July 2015 07.30 BST
Only 100 tigers left in Bangladesh's famed Sundarbans forest;
The population in the mangrove forest is far less than believed, officials say, after a census uses cameras hidden in trees to record numbers

SANDESHKHALI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Eleven-year old Srijita Bhangi sits in the waiting room of the jetty boat that connects her island home in Khulna to the mainland Sundarbans, near India's border with Bangladesh.

After spending a few days with her elderly grandparents – an effort to lift her most recent spell of depression – she is travelling back to the school hostel where she has lived since her parents left two years ago to find work in a garment factory 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away, in Tamil Nadu.

Since then she has seen them only once, and the school lodging has effectively become her new home.

"My granddaughter is sad going back to the hostel," admits her frail 72-year-old grandfather, Nripen, who will accompany her on the journey. "Her education has suffered since her parents left. She was in fifth grade in the village school but was demoted (to second grade) in the new school."

As climate change brings sea level rise, growing salinity in water and more dangerous storm surges to the low-lying and already economically depressed Sundarbans region, a rising number of parents are migrating elsewhere in search of work, with mothers increasingly joining fathers away from home, experts say.

Most migrants hope to one day to bring their children with them. But poor accommodation near new jobs, language barriers and a lack of childcare mean few children can make the move right away.

That has led to a staggering surge in children left behind in school hostels or with elderly grandparents – and a rising epidemic of childhood depression, malnutrition and vulnerability to child trafficking, local doctors and aid workers say.

They term the left-behind children “new-age orphans".

"The number of children suffering from depression has increased dramatically. We have to treat them for various mental disorders now that were unthinkable even five years ago," said Dr. Amitava Choudhury, a medical doctor who has worked in the Sundarbans for 18 years.

Depression has long been common among adults in the region, which has one of the country’s highest rates of deliberate self-harm.

Two studies, conducted by researchers from Institute of Psychiatry in Kolkata, published in 2008 and 2013 respectively, found poor "quality of life" - including low incomes and conflicts over forest management - to be the main stressor among adults.

"However, children were never depressive. We hardly found a case. This sudden rise in child depression is alarming,” said Dr. Pradip Saha, the director of the institute.

Malnutrition among children also has increased substantially because rising temperatures are lowering the number of fish in creeks and ponds, and because worsening floods and hurricanes have reduced cattle herds and left less milk for children to drink, Chowdhury said.

Aging grandparents also struggle to feed and care for the children, charity workers and other officials said.

"Now protein deficiency is rampant,” Chowdhury said. A World Bank survey in 2014 in the region found more than half of children undernourished.

With parents away, child hostels are in huge demand in the region, local people say. Most – both charity-run and private – offer residential schooling.

But affordability is a major concern among poor villagers. As a result, many hostels, to keep costs down, provide only basic education and safe shelter.

"We cannot charge high fees for lodging of these children as parents cannot afford it. They often request us to admit the children with a promise of paying the fees later in the year, which never happens," said Anshumas Das, whose Sabuj Sangha charity runs a hostel for 50 left-behind children in Pathar Pratima, a group of Sundarbans islands.

"We just cannot drive the children away, on humanitarian grounds," he said.

In Pathar Pratima, scores of parents have migrated to cities such as Bangalore and New Delhi.

"My mother works as a domestic maid and my father washes cars. I stay here with my aunt," said 13-year old Sudipto Senapati, in Kedarpur village. "My parents have promised me that I will also shift to Delhi soon. I have been there a few times and I hate living here alone."

Often, however, such hopes remain unfulfilled, Das said.

"Parents generally live in shanties, schools are more expensive and cultural alienation is very high. In Delhi schools, children speak Hindi, for example, an alien tongue,” he said.

Another hazard facing children left behind is child trafficking.

"With parents away, young girls and boys are soft targets to lure into trafficking. We could only rescue a tiny fraction of the total number of children trafficked over the past five years,” said Dinabandhu Das, secretary of the Joygopalpur Youth Development Centre, a Sandeshkhali non-governmental organisation that rescues trafficked children with the help of the police.

The state of West Bengal, where the Sundarbans is located, had the country’s highest rate of child trafficking in 2013, with 669 registered cases – a figure considered a gross underestimate as the crime is underreported, Das said.

Young mothers who migrate in search of work also sometimes fall victim to trafficking and fail to return to their children, he added.

The pressures of migrant work also lead to the breakdown of marriages in some cases, which means one or both parents may fail to return, or single parents fail to earn enough to bring their children to join them, families said.

With the number of children living without parents rising, having more state-run residential schools would be a huge help, said Subhas Acharya, for two decades a joint director of the Department of Sundarban Affairs and a resident of Pathar Pratima.

"You cannot castigate people for having aspirations and ambitions. Now that the social arrangements have changed and extended families have disintegrated, we have to find a viable solution for these children,” he said.

He fears the problem will continue to grow as Sundarbans families struggle not only with climate change but with growing population levels and eroding resources.

"The land resource is finite and a population of 4.4 million cannot be sustained within it. Fish stocks have diminished and forest dwelling involves high risks. On top, climatic changes here are already evident and well-documented," he said.

But hostels and shelters can never replace the love and care of parents, warned Anshumas Das. "Even if the children live with their grandparents, they feel neglected and depressed. These are the new-age orphans," he said.

Nripen, 11-year-old Srijita's grandfather, agrees. Since his daughter and son-in-law left for work in the garment factory, Srijita has suffered bouts of depression and been held back in school, he said.

"If we die early, she will be entirely left to her own devices, a thought that scares me," he said, walking wearily to the boat that had just arrived. It was time to ferry Srijita to the other side.

Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:37pm IST
Climate pressures lead to rise in 'new-age orphans' in Sundarbans
By Aditya Ghosh

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Horrific blast from the past

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AFP) – Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Thursday, with Mayor Kazumi Matsui renewing calls for U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders to step up efforts toward making a nuclear weapons free world.

Tens of thousands of attendants stood for a minute of silence at 8:30 a.m. at the ceremony in Hiroshima's peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 attack, marking the moment of the atomic blast. Then dozens of doves were released as a symbol of peace...

This year's memorial comes days ahead of the scheduled restart of a nuclear reactor in southern Japan -- the first one to go back on line after a two-year hiatus following the tsunami-sparked disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

While Abe has pushed to switch reactors back on, public opposition remains high after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Japan's nationalist leader has also been criticised for efforts to expand the role of his pacifist country's Self-Defence Forces, changes that open the door to putting troops into combat for the first time since the war.

In a fresh controversy over the unpopular moves, defence minister Gen Nakatani admitted that the new security laws being debated in parliament could -- in theory -- allow for Japan to transport nuclear weapons to allies, but he quickly dismissed it as unlikely.

New Straits Times, Published: Friday, August 7, 2015
Japan marks anniversary;
70 years since A-Bomb dropped

Moment of silence observed at Peace memorial Park but...

Tokyo (Reuters) - Japan wants to give planes to the Philippines that Manila could use for patrols in the South China Sea, sources said, a move that would deepen Tokyo's security ties with the Southeast Asian nation most at odds with Beijing over the disputed waterway.

Four sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Japan was looking to offer three Beechcraft TC-90 King Air planes that could be fitted with basic surface and air surveillance radar.

They said talks within the Japanese government were preliminary and would need to overcome legal hurdles. Japan had yet to formally propose the planes as an alternative to more sophisticated Lockheed Martin P3-C aircraft that Manila wants to track Chinese submarine activity, they added.

Senior Philippine military and defence officials in Manila said they had not heard about the possible donation of the twin-turboprop TC-90 aircraft, which Japan uses to train military pilots.

"The Philippines doesn't have enough aircraft to conduct regular patrols over the South China Sea," one of the sources in Japan said, declining to be identified because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Donating aircraft, even small planes, would represent a military upgrade for the Philippines, which has only a handful of fixed-wing planes it can deploy on maritime patrols.

Tokyo has no claims in the South China Sea, but is worried about Beijing's construction of seven artificial islands in the waterway's Spratly archipelago, which will extend Chinese military reach into sea lanes through which much of Japan's ship-borne trade passes.

Concerns over the islands have dominated regional meetings in Kuala Lumpur this week between Southeast Asia and countries including Japan, China and the United States.

Equipping Manila with maritime-capable patrol planes would dovetail with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's more muscular security agenda but likely anger China, which has repeatedly accused Japan of interfering in the South China Sea dispute.

A spokesman for Japan's Ministry of Defense said working level talks had been set up to explore possible cooperation in defence equipment with the Philippines but that there was no "concrete plan" to give Manila the TC-90s.

Philippine Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin told Reuters he was unaware of any Japanese plan to supply the aircraft. Top Philippine generals said they were also unaware of any proposal but welcomed the growing security cooperation with Japan.

China's Defence Ministry expressed concern about the plan.

"We hope that military cooperation between the relevant countries can benefit regional peace and stability, rather than the opposite," it said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

To allow what would be its first donation of equipment used by the Japanese military to another country, lawmakers would have to amend financial regulations that require second-hand government-owned equipment to be sold at fair market value, sources said.

That could open the way for Japan to give military equipment to other friendly nations in Southeast Asia.

The sources in Japan said radar to monitor surface activity and aircraft could be easily installed on the TC-90 planes if they were transferred. The U.S. military uses Beechcraft King Air 90s in transport roles and to train pilots.

While Gazmin said Manila still wanted P3s that Tokyo will retire over the next several years, a senior Philippine military official said operating and maintaining such advanced surveillance aircraft and ground-based support equipment would be a challenge. The P3s, which have four turboprops, also use a lot of fuel, he added.

Japan worries that the Philippine military's lack of experience in maritime surveillance means it would struggle to operate the aircraft's equipment and be able to quickly analyze data collected, sources in Tokyo said.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the ocean.

While acknowledging its new islands will have undefined military purposes, China insists it is not a threat to its neighbours and says the outposts will also have civilian uses such as search and rescue and weather monitoring.

Recent satellite images show China has almost finished building a 3,000-metre-long (10,000-foot) airstrip on one of the islands.

The Philippines and Japan have conducted two naval exercises in and around the South China Sea in recent months.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Abe also agreed in June to begin talks on a visiting forces agreement that would open the way for Japan to use bases in the Philippines to refuel aircraft and resupply naval vessels.

The United States, which has security treaties with both Manila and Tokyo, has backed the cooperation because it wants its regional allies to shoulder more of the security burden as Chinese military power and assertiveness grows.

Washington has asked the Japanese military to provide training and maintenance along with any aircraft it supplies to the Philippines, a U.S. military source told Reuters.

New Straits Times, Published: Friday, August 7, 2015
Tokyo to give Manila planes;
Japan wants to give 3 aircraft to Philippines to patrol Spratly islands

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Stories of atomic bombing

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN−The crowd sat entranced as 78-year-old Emiko Okada recalled the horrifying events of Aug. 6, 1945, a day that started hot and cloudless. There was the buzz of the plane, the huge flash, the cries for water, the kids like ghosts with skin dangling off them, the people with their guts hanging out.

“We don’t want you, young generations, to go through what I did. You can help by spreading what you just heard from me to other people,” Okada − a hibakusha, or “atomic-bombed person” − said this week in Hiroshima not far from the spot where American forces dropped Little Boy, the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare, 70 years ago Thursday.

Not only is Okada telling her own story, but she has also begun to train an apprentice to continue disseminating her tale after she’s gone: a memory keeper, one of a growing number here being designated as an “A-bomb legacy successor” as the number of survivors dwindles.

While there are still more than 183,000 survivors of Hiroshima or Nagasaki alive in Japan today, their average age is 80, according to official statistics.

Okada’s designated storyteller is a 39-year-old man who works at a Tokyo department store and has no direct ties to Hiroshima. But since visiting the peace museum here as a college student, the memory keeper, Yasukazu Narahara, has become almost as ardent as Okada when it comes to making sure their fellow Japanese do not forget how the bombing came about and the devastation that nuclear weapons cause.

Japanese children do not spend much time learning about the Second World War at school, with the official curriculum guidelines saying students should understand that the war “caused sufferings to all humanity at large.” A recent poll by the public broadcaster NHK found that only 30 per cent of adults could correctly give the date of the Hiroshima attack and even fewer knew when the Nagasaki attack happened...

Japan will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Hiroshima on Thursday and three days later the attack on Nagasaki. No one knows exactly how many people died as a result, but the Manhattan Engineer District says there were at least 105,000 deaths. Other estimates exceed 200,000.

Imperial Japan surrendered less than a week later, although there were people on both sides, including U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who believed that Japan was looking for a way to admit defeat even before the bombings.

For a long time afterward, survivors tried to hide their stories, afraid of being taunted in gym class over their burns or having marriage proposals revoked over radiation fears.

But in a move that many survivors oppose, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s conservative prime minister, is taking tangible steps toward removing some of the shackles imposed on Japan by its American occupiers 70 years ago.

He wants to reinterpret the pacifist constitution to enable Japan’s “self-defence forces” to take a more active military role, including by coming to the United States’ defence. Washington is supportive of the change.

But the proposal has sparked virulent protests at home, with many Japanese saying their war-renouncing constitution has served them well over the last seven decades. Japan’s neighbours have accused Abe of trying to whitewash history.

Okada is strongly dismissive of Abe’s plans − she wishes he wouldn’t come to the memorial here Thursday − and is worried that lessons are not being learned.

“Of course, I hope that students will be taught about this at school. I want young people to learn why the atomic bombs were dropped,” she said in an interview after her talk. “We also need to talk about what happened on the other side. We need to talk about what Japan did to other countries, too, so we understand all the events of this period of history.”

Stories of atomic bombing find open ears, new voice in Japan;
Seventy years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, survivors worried that memories of tragedy are fading pass on its lessons to younger generation with similar anti-war convictions.
By: Anna Fifield, The Washington Post, Published on Wed Aug 05 2015

FUKUSHIMA CITY (Reuters): When Atsushi Hoshino set out to revive a group representing atomic bomb survivors in the rural northeast Japanese prefecture of Fukushima 30 years ago, one topic was taboo: criticising the nuclear power industry upon which many relied for jobs.

That changed dramatically after March 11, 2011, when a massive tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering meltdowns, spewing radiation and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes.

“Until then ... I felt somewhat uncomfortable about nuclear power, but not enough to oppose it. Rather, I was in a situation where it wasn’t possible to oppose it,” Hoshino, 87, said on Tuesday at his home in Fukushima City, about 60km from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan’s first commercial nuclear plant when it went online in 1971.

Now Hoshino, a survivor of the Aug 6, 1945, US atomic bombing of Hiroshima that ended World War II, is among the majority of Japanese who oppose current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to reboot reactors taken offline after the Fukushima disaster.

Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Sendai plant in southwestern Japan is expected to resume operations on Monday – the first to do so in nearly two years.

“I think that since the risk of nuclear power and the fact that human beings cannot control it has become clear, none of the reactors should be restarted,” Hoshino said.

Akira Yamada, 89, chairman of Fukushima’s atomic bomb survivors group, said he reached a similar conclusion. Still, both men are wary of comparing the risks of nuclear power to atomic weapons.

“There is a difference between military use and peaceful use,” Yamada said.

Seventy years after the Hiro-shima and Nagasaki bombings, the experiences of the survivors remain seared in their memories.

Hoshino was a secondary school student deployed to a munitions factory when a US bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing nearly 140,000 people by the end of that year.

Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

On Aug 15, 1945, Japan surrendered.

Yamada – who, like Hoshino, became a professor at Fukushima University after WWII and later served as its president – was at home 2.5km from the centre of the explosion when the bomb fell on Hiroshima, filling the sky with black clouds and red flames.

For Hoshino, who had been out of the city but returned to search for missing classmates, one of his starkest memories is of finding two friends, one seemingly unhurt but unconscious, the other barely alive with his entire body burnt and blackened like charcoal.

The first died in a truck en route to their dorm. The other was alive but his body was already infested with maggots, which Hoshino removed with tweezers until that friend died too.

Nagasaki survivor and retired schoolteacher Yoshiteru Kohata, 86, who returned to Fukushima a few years after the war’s end, said he had long tried to forget the days after the bombing, when he helped the injured and carried corpses up to the mountains for burial.

Recounting his experiences such as hearing a young woman scream “Please stop, please stop” as an army doctor operated on her wounds without anaesthetic, still distresses him.

“Even now, when I tell the story, tears well up and my chest gets tight,” said Kohata.

Like many hibakusha (survivors of the two bombings), Yamada, Hoshino and Kohata are harsh critics of Abe, whose conservative agenda includes easing the constraints of Japan’s pacifist, post-war Constitution on the army and adopting a less penitent tone over the war.

Today, Abe is set to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end with a statement that some fear will dilute past apologies.

“If you delve into the atomic bombings which had such inhumane results, it was because we fought that ... war of aggression,” Yamada said, calling Japan’s wartime leaders “murderers”. “But Mr Abe is not delving deeply.”

Hoshino was even blunter: “I don’t think Shinzo Abe ... truly recognises that the war was a criminal war of aggression.

The Star, Published: Thursday August 6, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
A-bomb survivors oppose plans to restart nuclear power plants

Today's "The Star" carried the article by Dr Ronald AcCoy under the title of "Armageddon still awaits us" starting:

70 years ago today, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, followed by another on Nagasaki 3 days later, causing horrific damage in both cities.
Since then, the world has stockpiped enough such weapons to - very easily - do to the entire planet what those 2 bombs did in 1945.

Now Mr Yahho wants to introduce his another article from the Magazine issued by Consumers Association of Penang, CAP:

In June 2009, the Malaysian government singled out nuclear energy as one of the options for electricity generation, in order to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels, to meet future energy demands, and achieve energy diversification. A year later, the deployment of nuclear energy was identified as one of the Entry Point Projects in the Economic Transformation Programme and the Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) was assigned the role of spearheading, planning and coordinating the implementation of a nuclear energy development programme that is expected to culminate in the delivery of Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant by 2021.

The MNPC argues that nuclear energy is a valid energy option, if there are suitable sites for nuclear power plants, strong community support, and international safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes the peaceful uses of nuclear energy but is seen to be a creature of the nuclear industry, with obvious conflicts of interest.

There is a lot of disinformation about the virtues of nuclear energy and the Malaysian government and nuclear proponents need to answer some serious questions. Where is the strong community support in the country for nuclear energy? Where is the process of genuine dialogue, debate and consultation with the people of Malaysia? Where is the evidence that nuclear energy is cheap, clean and safe? What is the real cost of nuclear energy? What about the enormous subsidies required? How concerned are you about the serious health and environmental dangers of nuclear energy? And most critically, how are you going to manage the safe disposal of lethal nuclear waste which will remain radioactive for thousands of years? Do you not have a moral responsibility for the safety and welfare of future generations?

There are times in the history of a country when critically important decisions must be made correctly and democratically, with considerable care, honesty, and wisdom, because such decisions will have a lasting and crucial impact on the country’s future. Whether or not to opt for nuclear power is such a decision. In determining Malaysia’s portfolio of energy resources, we must isolate and quarantine the issue of nuclear energy from politics, cronyism, personal gain, duplicity and foolishness.

Most governments in the world have seen the writing on the nuclear wall and are phasing out nuclear energy and investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies and energy conservation. The Malaysia government will be seen to be indifferent, if not delinquent, if it ignores sensible global trends and proceeds to build a nuclear power plant, which could be potentially catastrophic, nation-crippling, and a radioactive time bomb for future generations.

Nuclear energy is not a viable option
By Ronald McCoy, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist who believes that all the babies he had delivered, as well as the rest of humanity, deserve to live in a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. He is also former president of the Malaysian Medical Association, past co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and founder president of Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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global warming

CIUDAD SERDAN, Mexico − As a result of rising temperatures, Mexico’s tallest volcano, Pico de Orizaba, is performing an all-natural striptease, the ice patches near its summit melting away to bare rock.

The same process is taking place in the permafrost of Russia, the ice fields of the Yukon and the glaciers of New Zealand. And as the once-frozen world emerges from slumber, it’s yielding relics, debris − and corpses − that have laid hidden for decades, even millennia.

The thaw has unnerved archaeologists, given hope to relatives of lost mountain climbers and solved the mysteries of old plane crashes.

What emerges is not always apparent − or even pleasant. That pungent smell? It’s a massive deposit of caribou dung in the Yukon that had been frozen for thousands of years, and now it is decomposing in the air, its sharp odor unlocked.

Pico de Orizaba towers above all other mountains in Mexico at 18,491 feet. It is the highest peak in North America after Mount McKinley in Alaska and Mount Logan in Canada’s Yukon Territory. A challenging dormant volcano, Orizaba is a training ground for those interested in high-altitude climbing.

For a handful of climbers, it has been their last peak. They’ve been buried by avalanches or swallowed by crevasses. Now, the mountain is spitting back their bodies...

The Columbus Dispatch, Published: Sunday June 28, 2015 5:00 AM
Melting glaciers reveal secrets about past
By Tim Johnson, Tribune News Service

NOT SO long ago, skeleton staff overwintering at the Ny-Alesund research centre could walk on the Arctic town’s frozen bay and race their snow mobiles across its surface.

Now there is liquid water even in the coldest months, the glaciers are retreating at a rate of hundreds of metres per year, and alien species from warmer climes are making the bay their home, say longtime residents of the sparsely-populated town on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

“In the 1990s, we could cross the bay in snow mobiles,” recalled Juergen Graeser, a technician at the Franco-German Awipev research station which collects weather, atmospheric and chemical data.

“The last time we could walk on it was in the winter of 2003-04.”

And since 2007, the Kongsfjorden fjord or bay that carves into the island’s west coast, “has not frozen over once”, said Sebastien Barrault, a research adviser for the Kings Bay logistics company.

These days, the bay in winter more closely resembles its summery self: a vast expanse of water dotted with icebergs and patches of ice sheet, framed by glaciers.

Just 1,000km south of the north Pole, the island’s climate was always mild for its high latitude (79 degrees) due to a warm ocean current that runs along its west coast.

But the Arctic has warmed more than any other region on Earth – a phenomenon some scientists have linked to feedback from sea ice loss and changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation caused by overall planet warming.

The region has warmed about 1.0 to 1.2 degrees Celsius (1.8-2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) in each of the past two decades – far exceeding the global 0.8 C average since the pre-industrial era.

In March, US officials said Arctic sea ice had reached its lowest winter point since satellite observations began in the late 1970s – raising concerns for sea level rise and the survival of polar bears and marine creatures which depend on the ice...

The Brunei Times, Published: Monday, August 3, 2015
Norway's melting glaciers;
Kongsfjorden fjord not frozen over once since 2007, says researcher
Céline Serrat, Ny-Alesund, Norway

PARIS (AFP) - Glaciers worldwide have shrunk to levels not seen in 120 years of record-keeping, with melt-off accelerating in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a study released Monday.

On average, glaciers currently lose between 50 to 150 centimetres (20 to 60 inches) of thickness every year, reported the study, published in the "Journal of Glaciology".

"This is two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century," said Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service and the study's lead author.

More than a billion people, especially in Asia and South America, get more than half of their drinking water from the seasonal melting of snow melt and glacier ice, previous research has shown.

The current rate of global glacier melt is without precedent for the 120 years covered by scientific observation, and probably for much longer, Zemp added.

France 24, Published: 03 August 2015 - 14H29
Glaciers melt to lowest level on record: study;
A close-up of the Sindipumba Glaciar in Ecuador, as a new study shows that glaciers are losing between 50 to 150 centimetres (20 to 60 inches) of thickness every year

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Asean and China

A LION Dance troupe from China reigned supreme at the 8th Penang International Lion Dance on Stilts Championship 2015.

Guangxi Dragon and Lion Dance Sports Association wowed the crowd with an explosive display to secure top place with 9.22 points among the 10 competing teams in the finals.

The ‘black lion’ cast a majestic silhouette as it leaped forth with confident and teased the audience with its splendid performance backed by the sound of drums and percussion.

Guangxi’s coach Pan Hui Bin said they were proud to win their maiden competition in Penang after a two-month practice.

“It was an eye-opening experience with so many professionals and experts here.

“We will be donating part of our winnings to charity and the rest to be used for our future activities,” he said after receiving the grand prize of RM10,000 from state Tourism Development Committee chairman Danny Law at Han Chiang Stadium in Penang on Sunday.

Finishing a close second was Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association from Johor with a score of 9.20 points.

Coach Tan Chong Hing said winning and losing was part and parcel of the game.

“The experience will be invaluable,” he said.

Coming in third was Hong Teik Lion and Dragon Dance Association from Alor Setar, Kedah.

The team accumulated the most points with 9.26 but was deducted 0.1 point.

Chief judge Yong Kheng Chien said the deduction was due to the damage in the lion’s adornment.

“Their flag pole was spoiled when they marched out and bowed to the audience,” he said.

Hong Teik’s coach Cheah Kwong Leang said he respected the decision and it would not dampen the spirit of the team.

“Our performance on stilts was smooth and flawless,” he said.

Syah Datul Azmi, 22, from the popular Muar-based Kun Seng Keng, said it was difficult to communicate with his teammates in the beginning.

“When we started to spend time together, we become like a family,” said the car spare parts dealer.

“There are actually many members in our association who are from different cultural background, but they could not make it here due to work commitments,” added Syah.

Singaporean Yi Wei Athletic Association troupe member Lee Kai Ming said he was excited to be here after a three-year hiatus.

“We last participated in 2012. It’s good to be back,” said the 20-year-old.

Spotted among the crowd was Neesyammala Babu Rao, 37, who came from Kulim with her husband and two children.

“I want to expose my children to different cultures and traditions,” said the businesswoman.

Caroline Lems, 50, who just relocated to Penang from the Netherlands, said she always found it fascinating watching a lion dance performance.

“The performances were simply fantastic,” she said.

The Star, Published: Tuesday August 4, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Roaring with class and precision
By Chong Kah Yuan and N. Trisha

MALAYSIA’S chairmanship of Asean sees the kicking off of the 48th Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and several other related meetings at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur this week...

While the complexities within the organisation requires much work to try and establish a genuine AEC by year-end, these meetings are an opportunity to solve other regional problems of importance...

As urgent in respect of regional peace is the dispute with China over the Spratly Islands. While Malaysia is amenable to bilateral solutions, Philippines, another Asean member, has taken a more confrontational approach. That the US, with its Pivot to Asia policy, has resurrected naval bases in the Philippines, is easily a potential destabilising force (note*). The war of words between China and the US has been escalating in recent months...

New Straits Times, Published: 3 August 2015 @ 12:00 PM
Regional solutions
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/94431

KUALA LUMPUR: Asean member countries and China are identifying common ground to draft a Code of Conduct (CoC) framework for the territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

China Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said finding the common ground was a step forward in the consultation process following the senior officials’ meeting (SOM) on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) last Wedensday in Tianjin, China.

“We had a very successful DoC-SOM meeting in Tianjin. The most crucial points of the meeting were about the agreed papers prepared by the Joint Working Group (JWG).

“We are entering a new stage in revealing crucial and complicated issues, including identifying mutual grounds to draft the framework of the CoC. “This is a step forward in the consultation process,” he said after attending the Asean Plus Three SOM in Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday, which is part of the series of meetings of the 48th Asean Foreign Ministers’

Meeting and related conferences. Liu hoped that the discussions on the dispute would be intensified in the coming months and that China was looking forward to working with Asean member countries to push for the implementation of the DoC, as well as on the consultation of the CoC. “We are confident on that (working with Asean member countries).”

New Straits Times, Published: 3 August 2015 at 8:35 PM
Asean and China to draft framework for the territorial dispute
By Zafira Anwar
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/94532

Despite China’s objections, the United States and the Philippines will call for a stop to island-building work, military deployments and other aggressive actions that raise tensions in the disputed South China Sea in an annual diplomatic meeting in Malaysia, officials said Tuesday.

Beijing has opposed any mention of the thorny territorial rifts in the meetings of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their Asian and western counterparts. But Washington has said it would call for a halt to aggressive actions by China and other rival nations to allow a diplomatic solution to a problem that threatens regional stability.

Philippines foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said on Tuesday that his country would push the US call in the meetings this week, but would not agree to be bound by it unless China and other countries locked in the conflict also do so.

As a means of de-escalating tensions in the region, the Philippines fully supports and will proactively promote the call of the United States on the ‘three halts’ − a halt in reclamation, halt in construction and a halt in aggressive actions that could further heighten tensions,” del Rosario said.

“We have to emphasise, however, that this should not in any way legitimise the status of the features reclaimed by China,” del Rosario said, referring to massive artificial islands that China started building last year on at least seven disputed reefs.

Washington is not a party to the conflict and has a policy of not taking sides in the territorial row, but says a peaceful resolution of the problem and freedom of navigation in the disputed waters were in the US national interest. China rejects any US involvement...

The Guardian, Published: Tuesday 4 August 2015 04.55 BST
US and Philippines to defy China and raise South China Sea dispute;
Washington has said it would call for a halt to aggressive actions by China and other rival nations including island-building work and military deployments
By Associated Press

(note* taken by Mr Yahho)
read more: http://www.manilalivewire.com/2015/06/us-senate-wants-to-arm-the-philippines-and-other-allies-to-counter-china/
(reader's comment)
If not for the idiotic politicians of the past, the American military base would still be there and China or any other nation won't even think of attempting to bully the Philippines... unfortunately, the United States is not open right now in opening additional military bases due to reduce military budget restraint... the sad part about it though, were if the US Military Bases in the Philippines were not asked to leave, the United States would still keep those bases operational during the multiple base closure within the United States a couple of decades ago.

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Cecil the lion

Do you know "An image of Cecil the lion being projected onto the Empire State Building in New York"?

Zimbabwe suspended all wildlife hunting in the country as officials investigated the death of Cecil the lion, shot in July outside Hwange National Park.

The government is “directing all those in currently in the field to stop their hunting activities and withdraw,” Zimbabwean Environment Secretary Prince Mupazviriho said in an e-mailed statement today.

The move comes amid global protests at the death of Cecil, who was a draw for tourists at the nation’s biggest animal sanctuary. Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter, appeared in a Zimbabwe court last week, accused of helping Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer hunt the lion. Cecil was wounded with a crossbow before being shot with a gun then skinned and beheaded.

“It has become necessary that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority further tightens hunting regulations in all areas outside the Parks Estate,” Edson Chidziya, the authority’s director general, said yesterday.

Researchers with the parks authority told the Guardian newspaper today that reports were untrue that another male lion, Jericho, had also been shot dead by poachers in Zimbabwe.
Poaching Charges

Zimbabwe requested the extradition of Palmer to face poaching charges, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it’s investigating the incident.

Zimbabwe has 2,000 lions and is allowing 70 to be hunted this year, according to the parks authority.

“The suspension is not clear. Is it for a month, or the rest of the season?” Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, told reporters at a news conference. “It will negatively affect the season because of the cancellations.”

Cecil’s death has sparked global outrage. Animal-rights groups have called for a ban on trophy hunting, and Palmer has receiving death threats through social media and has closed his dental practice, at least temporarily.

Palmer said in a statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper last week that he thought the hunt was legal and he didn’t know Cecil was wearing an electronic collar as part of an Oxford University research project. Palmer said he would cooperate with the U.S. and Zimbabwean authorities.

A petition asking the Obama administration to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe in connection with the lion’s death gained more than 144,000 signatures in two days. The White House will respond to the petition, spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Bloomberg, Updated on August 2, 2015 − 10:35 PM HKT
Zimbabwe Orders All Hunters to ‘Withdraw’ After Killing of Cecil
By Godfrey MarawanyikaKit Chellel

Washington (AFP) - The head of PETA, the world's largest animal rights group, demanded an end Saturday to all forms of trophy hunting, which she denounced as a hideous pastime plied by rich, callous thrill seekers.

"You have these sort of coach potato trophy hunters who go over to Africa and they wave a lot of money in front of people," said PETA head Ingrid Newkirk, who told CNN that the animals which become their prey "are basically wheeled out" to be hunted.

"Sometimes, they actually will shoot a lion or rhino who's sleeping. It's very common for them to shoot at night because they can then (use a spotlight to) blind the animal who's come in to eat," Newkirk told the cable network.

And she painted an unflattering portrait of big game hunters.

"It's ugly Americans and Euro-trash, and we have to get rid of that," said the English-born animal rights activist.

"We don't want to be tainted by that, any of us, who have more money than sense," said Newkirk, who has lived for many years in the United States.

"They could give that money to villages, they could start programs, they could do something useful -- but they don't," she said.

"They give to it a safari company probably owned by a couple of people, often white, and they get the money. Locals don't get it, they discard the carcasses, so they're not feeding anybody. They're not subsidizing anybody's village life," she said. "It's bunk.

She made her remarks amid global outrage over the shooting death last month of Cecil, a protected lion from a preserve in Zimbabwe.

The beloved big cat was considered an iconic attraction for tourists at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

The hunter, American Walter Palmer, used a bow and arrow to shoot Cecil, which was tracked for a second day before being shot dead.

Newkirk joined a chorus of outraged people from across the world calling for Palmer's extradition to face prosecution in Zimbabwe.

"I think he should face the music," she said.

"He's a coward. He should go back to Zimbabwe and stand trial," she said.

"I want him answerable for his crimes, and I want these kinds of crimes committed by trophy hunters to stop."

August 1, 2015 8:00 PM
PETA boss on trophy hunters: 'Ugly Americans, Euro-trash'

Meanwhile Mr Yahho went to Han Chiang Studium to enjoy the competition "Penang International Lion Dance" on Saturday 1st of August, 2015:

THE 8th Penang International Lion Dance on Stilts Champion-ship 2015 is set to be an explosive affair, with at least two top Penang teams confirming their participation.

Defending champions Kuala Lumpur-based Kwang Yee Lion Dance troupe will battle it out with renowned Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association and 19 others for honours this time around.

State Tourism Development Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said 21 teams would be in the fray, including teams from China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.

“Those who love lion dances should grab the chance to watch the best troupes in action,” Law said during a press conference at St Giles Wembley.

“The stilts are as high as 2.5 metres. It will be a thrilling experience for the audience.”

The preliminary round of the two-day championship will start on Aug 1 from 1pm to 7pm at the Han Chiang Indoor Stadium.

The Star, Published: Thursday July 16, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Roaring good show awaits lion dance fans
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Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra

Nearly a thousand people in Taiwan describe as a "China-centric" high school curruiculum:

The revisions were initiated by the Education Ministry in 2014. Officials with the ruling Nationalist Party describe them as minor changes intended to make the curriculum more factually accurate and to emphasize Taiwanese identity.

But opponents have charged that the revisions whitewash Taiwan’s authoritarian period under Nationalist rule before it became a democracy in the early 1990s, and amount to inserting pro-mainland China ideology into the curriculum. In particular, they complain that a violent crackdown on student protesters in 1947 by the Nationalist government has been left out of the curriculum.

Critics also allege that the revision process was not conducted in a fully transparent manner, and complain about the composition of the panel that formulated the changes. Among its members was a professor who also serves as vice chairman of a group called the Alliance for the Reunification of China.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since China’s civil war ended in 1949, with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fleeing to the island after being defeated by the Communists on the mainland. But Communist Party leaders in Beijing regard Taiwan as a renegade province and part of “one China,” and insist that the two sides must eventually be reunited.

Under President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party, Taiwan has pursued closer trade ties with the mainland. Businesses and others have welcomed the economic rapprochement but some constituencies, particularly young people, have eyed the closer ties with some skepticism...

“Taiwan should not be involved in a war of extremism because of ideological issues,” the mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je added, while urging students to “protest with reason and peace” and advising them that police are “not public enemies.”

But the protests may go on for some time, said J. Michael Cole, a senior non-resident fellow at the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute and a researcher at the Thinking Taiwan Foundation, a think tank launched in 2012 by Tsai Ing-wen, who is now the Democratic Progressive Party's nominee for the 2016 presidential election.

Wu, Education Minister, is unlikely to step down and the government is unlikely to freeze or mothball the proposal, Cole said. The Nationalists are behind in the polls for the 2016 election, he noted, while Tsai is ahead.

Los Angeles Times, Published: July 31, 2015 4:01 AM
Taiwan students storm legislature, Education Ministry in curriculum protest
By Julie Makinen reporting from Beijing

Meanwhile Mr Yahoo joined last night a show held at Penang Town Hall by Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra and he enjoyed the bamboo music with a good memory of our Club, Friends of Mountain (FOM) visit to Taiwan to walk the trail and to communicate with the village peoples in Taiwan:

About TBO
Founded in 2011 by a group of music teachers and students. Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra (TBO) is the first registered orchestra in Taiwan to use bamboo-based musical instruments on stage.

These unique instruments, developed by Dr Wu Shin-Yin are provided by Taiwan's National l-Lan University.

The group is also supported by the Dept of Forstry and Natural Resources.

TBO has 3 obejectives:
to combine the natural sound of bamboo with traditional Chinese of Wertern music;
tp globalize and communicate with other bamboo music lovers;
to enhance the international visibility of bamboo music in Taiwan.

The group has attracted a wide range of audiences with their skillful techniques, fascinating suonds, and good reputation, and has performed over 30 times since their eatablishemnt.

In 2011 and 2012, TBO was invited to join the Tamparuli Bamboo Music Festival in Sabah.

The Groupd was also invited to perform at Pacific Place, Hong Kong, for their 2012 Chinese New Year celebration event.

In 2013 TBO had a chance to perform in Tunog-tugan, the 1st International Gongs and Bamboo Music Festival held in Dipolog City, Philippines.

(from their brochure)

"Angry Birds" played by Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra at Tunog-tugan.

BUYING Taiwanese food is now easier with the opening of Malaysia’s first Taiwan food shop at Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur.

Jimrosa Taiwan Foods Shop offers up to 300 different kinds of quality natural Taiwan food ranging from sauces, noodles and spices to candies and snacks.

Its director Willy Seah said the imported food was well suited to the local market and meticulously screened to guarantee good prices and high quality.

“Our store not only allows consumers to buy exquisite Taiwan food with ease, but it also promotes the country’s food products such as ginger tea, pineapple cakes, millet mochi, meringues as well as various kinds of sauces and beverages,” said Seah.

Also present at the opening ceremony were Malaysia Taipei Economic and Cultural Office deputy representative Cheng Shyang-Yun, Economic division director Chang Ming and Kuala Lumpur Taiwan Trade Centre director Jessie Tseng.

“Through the establishment of our speciality store, we hope to improve brand awareness and trust towards Taiwan food among Malaysians and reach more local taste buds,” said Seah, adding he had over 20 years of experience in food trading...

Jimrosa (M) Sdn Bhd was established in 1997 and is one of Malaysia’s main Taiwan food importers and local wholesaler as well as supermarket distributor.

The Star, Published: Wednesday July 29, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Taiwan food all in one place
by Emily K.

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