[News] All Around The World

A posting place for news from places around the globe, outside of the US/Europe.

Yup. 16 million acres burned to date, 150km long fire fronts raging out of control, whole regional towns obliterated, and our governing party is publishing Trump-style 'DONATE NOW' (to the party, not the bushfire efforts) ads on social media lauding their late and inadequate response. It's infuriating.

It is impossible to buy a filtration mask anywhere. Any place that would normally sell them has eitehr sold out or shipped them off to support firefighters somewhere.

Our air has been utterly filthy this week. Everyone I know is feeling some effect from the smoke which has now made it all the way to Chile leaving a dirty coating on New Zealand on the way.

You try importing one from another country? I suppose the fires are causing chaos with the mail though.

Behind Campus Attack in India, Some See a Far-Right Agenda

NEW DELHI — For decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and its affiliates have struggled to control one of India’s most fertile ideological recruiting grounds: university campuses.

That project erupted in violence last weekend, as masked men and women stormed the New Delhi campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of India’s premier liberal institutions.

Witnesses said police officers stood by as students were attacked with rods and bricks. Some assailants shouted slogans associated with Mr. Modi’s governing party and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or R.S.S., which for decades has aspired to turn India into a Hindu nation.

“They pelted stones at us, stones half the size of bricks,” said Sucharita Sen, a geography professor, who was struck in the head and needed stitches. She was bleeding profusely, she said, adding: “I saw the face of terror.”

Mr. Modi’s government initially condemned the violence. But some ministers, along with others in the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, tried to justify it. “For too long, Leftists have been treated with kid gloves,” the party’s branch in the state of Karnataka said on Twitter. “No wonder this ‘good for nothing breed’ has grown like a Weed.”

As protests continue across India against Mr. Modi’s contentious citizenship law, universities have become targets, with far-right groups accused of attacking places seen as hot spots for “antinational” activism. Some analysts saw the well-orchestrated attack on Sunday as something more: a watershed in the ascendant Hindu nationalist movement’s fight for control over the influential university, and over Indian higher education more broadly.

Man Admits To Murdering Investigative Journalist, A Crime That Rocked Slovakia

A man accused of being a hired assassin has pleaded guilty to killing a journalist who investigated corruption in Slovakia — a shocking murder that led to the government's collapse in early 2018, along with the exit of several police and justice officials.

Miroslav Marcek pleaded guilty at the start of a high-profile trial for four people accused of carrying out a plot to kill reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in their home. At the time of his death, Kuciak, 27, had been reporting on alleged ties between high-ranking people in Slovakia's government and the Italian mafia. He and Kusnirova were shot to death.

"I am guilty in point one," Marcek told a special criminal court after prosecutors read indictments related to the murders on Monday, according to The Slovak Spectator. He later testified that the job of killing Kuciak had come to him through his cousin and co-defendant, Tomas Szabo.

While Kuciak was the target, it seems that Kusnirova's death resulted from an oversight as Marcek approached the house: He had not covered his face.

Asked why he killed Kusnirova, Marcek replied, "I saw the fact that when I knocked on the door without a balaclava, that it was not possible to just let it go," according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Report, which is monitoring the hearing.

#SeemsLegit

Russian government resigns as Vladimir Putin plans future

Russia's government has resigned, hours after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could prolong his stay in power.

If approved by the public, the proposals would transfer power from the presidency to parliament.

Mr Putin is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth term of office comes to an end.

But there is speculation he could seek a new role or hold on to power behind the scenes.

Mr Putin put forward his plans in his annual state of the nation address to lawmakers. Later, in an unexpected move, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that the government was resigning to help facilitate the changes.

Russian government sources told the BBC that ministers did not know about the government's resignation ahead of the announcement.

"It was a complete surprise," one source said.

Did we manage how insane the whole Carlos Ghosn thing in Japan was?

He snuck out of Japan inside of the kind of luggage case they transport musical equipment in! The head of Nissan and former CEO of Renault!

This also alerted me to Japan's criminal justice system, which:

People can be held for an initial period of 23 days without charge, during which time they will only be allowed to meet their lawyer. They can be interrogated for many hours a day without the presence of legal counsel. It is a system that has been widely criticised, including by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, but Japan’s justice ministry remains unmoved.

At a recent meeting with senior justice ministry officials, I asked why Japan has refused to bring its pre-charge detention system into line with other democratic countries.

“Interrogation serves a very important function in the Japanese judicial process,” the senior official said. “It has been decided by senior legal experts that the presence of defence counsel during interrogation would impair the advancement of the interrogation process. But the defendant’s right to remain silent is guaranteed.”

“Japan’s constitution says you have the right to remain silent,” says Prof Repeta. “But the reality is, it is denied. The prosecutors will scream at you, say you are a cockroach who is betraying Japan. There is no lawyer present, you are berated for eight hours a day, for 23 days, with no hope of it stopping.”

Huh!

Gee, I wonder who wrote Japan's constitution...

I would have done the same thing. So corrupt...

But they've got a 99% conviction rate! You can't argue with results! Well, you shouldn't anyway. Especially if you're in Japan.

It’s not even just as bad as people being falsely imprisoned, which as what I assumed at first. The prosecution will also pass on cases where they think success isn’t guaranteed just to maintain their 99% conviction rate. So, not only are innocent people jailed, criminals are going free.

Going back to the original point:
Railroaded: One Woman’s Battle Against Japan’s “Hostage Justice”
https://www.nippon.com/en/people/e00...

Ace Attorney’s depiction of the Japanese legal system isn’t as fantastical as you might think!

bnpederson wrote:

But they've got a 99% conviction rate! You can't argue with results! Well, you shouldn't anyway. Especially if you're in Japan.

This is the much larger problem with japan justice system. An acquittal is interpreted as a personal failure on the part of both the judge and the prosecutors, and can have very serious career implications. That sets up so many perverse incentives, not the least of which is an attitude of "If you weren't guilty, you wouldn't be on trial"

Mr GT Chris wrote:

It’s not even just as bad as people being falsely imprisoned, which as what I assumed at first. The prosecution will also pass on cases where they think success isn’t guaranteed just to maintain their 99% conviction rate. So, not only are innocent people jailed, criminals are going free.

Going back to the original point:
Railroaded: One Woman’s Battle Against Japan’s “Hostage Justice”
https://www.nippon.com/en/people/e00...

Ace Attorney’s depiction of the Japanese legal system isn’t as fantastical as you might think!

So the dystopian legal system in the Phoenix Wright games is basically reality?

Well, Phoenix Wright, as I understand it, is a satire of both the Japanese and the U.S. legal system.

thrawn82 wrote:

This is the much larger problem with japan justice system. An acquittal is interpreted as a personal failure on the part of both the judge and the prosecutors, and can have very serious career implications. That sets up so many perverse incentives, not the least of which is an attitude of "If you weren't guilty, you wouldn't be on trial"

But yeah, that seems... sub-optimal.

Since we're on Japan, here's a couple stories that caught the eye:

Japan opposition parties' failing merger bid offers glimpse into divisions

For weeks, the nation’s two largest opposition parties have been working on a merger, aiming to establish a formidable alternative to the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of the start of the ordinary Diet session set to begin Monday.

Sources who spoke to The Japan Times, as well as reports citing lawmakers by multiple media outlets, suggest the merger is unlikely to be completed ahead of the session, squandering what many observers see as a golden opportunity for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People to form a united front in the event of a snap election.

Opposition parties have been realigning themselves for years, but so far have been unable to come together — a weakness Abe has used to his advantage. Since he became prime minister in late 2012, his Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito have trounced the opposition in poll after poll.

That a unified front would improve prospects for the opposition seems self-evident, but several factors — including ideological differences, personal grievances, and the failure to appeal to independent voters — appear to have stymied progress toward the goal of consolidation.

Achieving a merger before the start of the year’s first Diet session has been key for the CDP, but the DPP has shown reluctance to be bound by a deadline. In a television program aired Sunday, DPP leader Yuichiro Tamaki told NHK, “We’d rather avoid being hasty by making the start of the Diet session, on Jan. 20, as the deadline,” according to a report by the Asahi daily.

Japanese women face a future of poverty, as confluence of factors conspire against them

At first glance, things seem to be getting better for Japanese women.

In an economy that’s historically lagged other developed nations when it comes to female workforce participation, a record 71 percent are now employed, an 11 point leap over a decade ago.

The government boasts one of the most generous parental leave laws in the world and recently created a “limited full-time worker” category aimed primarily at mothers looking to balance job and family. And one of the most important needs for working families — child day care — is slowly being expanded.

But even with these advantages, Japanese women — whether single or married, full-time or part-time — face a difficult financial future. A confluence of factors that include an aging population, falling birthrates and anachronistic gender dynamics are conspiring to damage their prospects for a comfortable retirement. According to Seiichi Inagaki, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, the poverty rate for older women will more than double over the next 40 years, to 25 percent.

For single, elderly women, he estimated, the poverty rate could reach 50 percent.

In Japan, people live longer than almost anywhere else and birthrates are at their lowest since records began. As a result, the nation’s working-age population is projected to have declined by 40 percent come 2055.

With entitlement costs skyrocketing, the government has responded by scaling back benefits while proposing to raise the retirement age. Some Japanese responded by moving money out of low-interest bank accounts and into 401(k)-style retirement plans, hoping investment gains might soften the blow. But such a strategy requires savings, and women in Japan are less likely to have any.

Japan’s gender pay gap is one of the widest among advanced economies. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japanese women make only 73 percent as much as men. Japan’s demographic crisis is making matters worse: Retired couples who are living longer need an additional $185,000 to survive projected shortfalls in the public pension system, according to a recent government report.

A separate study did the math for Japanese women: They will run out of money 20 years before they die.

Dire pension calculations published by Japan’s Financial Services Agency in June 2019 caused such an outcry that the government quickly rejected the paper, saying it needlessly worried people. But economic observers said the report was dead-on: Japan’s pension system is ranked 31st out of 37 nations due in part to underfunding, according to the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index.

Takashi Oshio, a professor at the Institute of Economic Research at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, said private pensions and market-based retirement investments are now much more important than they once were. Machiko Osawa, a professor at Japan Women’s University, was more blunt: The days of being “totally dependent on a public pension” are over.

But there are additional obstacles for Japanese women. Although 3.5 million of them have entered the workforce since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012, two-thirds are working only part-time.

Japanese men generally see their compensation rise until they reach 60. For women, average compensation stays largely the same from their late twenties to their sixties, a fact attributable to pauses in employment tied to having children or part-time, rather than full-time, work. Since the mid-2000s, part-time employment rates have fallen for women in more than half the countries that make up the OECD. But in Japan, the trend is reversed, with part-time work among women rising over the past 15 years.

One of Abe’s stated goals is to encourage more women to keep working after giving birth, part of his so-called womenomics initiative. But according to a recent government study, almost 40 percent of women who had full-time jobs when they became pregnant subsequently switched to part-time work or left the workforce.

Machiko Nakajima’s employment trajectory is typical of this state of affairs. Nakajima, who used to work full time at a tourism company, left her position at age 31 when she became pregnant.

“I had no desire to work while taking care of my kid,” she said in an interview. Instead, Nakajima spent a decade raising two children before returning to work. Now 46, the mother of two works as a part-time receptionist at a Tokyo tennis center. Though her husband, who also is 46, has a full time job, Nakajima said she fears for her future, given the faltering pension system.

“It makes me wonder how I’m going to live the rest of my” life, she said.

“It’s not easy to save for retirement as a part-time worker.”

According to government data, the monthly cost of living for a Japanese household with more than two people is ¥287,315 ($2,650). Some 15.7 percent of Japanese households live below the poverty line, which is about $937 per month.

More than 40 percent of part-time working women earn ¥1 million ($9,100) or less a year, according to Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The lack of benefits, job security and opportunity for advancement — hallmarks of full-time employment in Japan — make such women financially vulnerable, particularly if they don’t have a partner to share expenses with.

Yanfei Zhou, a researcher at the Japan Institute for Labor Policy & Training and author of a book on the subject, “Japan’s Married Stay-at-Home Mothers in Poverty,” contends there’s a gap of ¥200 million ($1.28 million) in lifetime income between women who work full-time and women who switch from full-time to part-time at the age of 40.

“It’s not easy to save for retirement as a part-time worker,” she said. Single mothers need to make at least ¥3 million annually, or about $27,600—numbers you can’t hit “if you work part-time.”

In Japan, public pensions account for 61 percent of income among elderly households. The system provides basic benefits to all citizens and is funded by workers from age 20 to age 59 — and by government subsidies. Many retirees get additional income from company pension plans.

While widows can claim some portion of a deceased spouse’s pension, the number of unmarried Japanese is steadily rising, having more than tripled since 1980. The latest survey showed the rate for women is 14 percent versus 23 percent for men.

One “reason why women’s retirement savings is lower than men’s is that the lifetime salary is low,” said Yoshiko Nakamura, a financial planner and president of Alpha and Associates Inc. “Traditionally, many women chose to limit their workload in order to take advantage of social security spousal benefits, and that created many ‘women’s jobs’ that pay less than ¥1 million.”

Japan has historically created incentives for married women to limit their employment to such noncareer track jobs; lower pay means they (and their husbands) can take advantage of spousal deduction benefits. For example, the government gives a ¥380,000 ($3,133) tax deduction to a male worker if his wife earns less than about ¥1.5 million ($13,700) per year.

The private sector does it, too. Many companies give employees a spousal allowance as long as their partner earns less than a certain amount. Some 84 percent of private companies in Japan offer workers about ¥17,282 per month ($159) as long as their spouse earns less than a certain amount annually — usually ¥1.5 million, though the ceiling is lower for most companies.

Yumiko Fujino, who works as an administrative assistant, should have been happy when the government raised the minimum wage. But she wasn’t: In order for her husband to keep receiving spousal benefits, she had to cut back on her hours.

These limits are known among married women in Japan as the “wall.” Unless a wife is making enough money on a part-time basis to afford income taxes and forgo spousal benefits, it doesn’t make sense to work additional hours. But to work those kind of hours means less time for kids, which is usually the point of working part-time in the first place.

Women who qualify for the spousal benefit, Fujino said, “think less about retirement security and more about the current cost of living.”

Abe’s government is considering changes that would require more part-time workers to contribute to the pension program and mandate that smaller companies participate as well. Takero Doi, professor of economics at Keio University, said the expansion would be a small step toward giving women a financial incentive to work more.

Yoko Kamikawa, a former gender equality minister, agreed that the current pension system — last updated in the 1980s — should be expanded to include part-time workers. Forty years ago, single-income households made up the overwhelming majority in Japan. Since then, Kamikawa said families have become more diverse.

Machiko Osawa, a professor at Japan Women’s University, went farther, saying social security should be based around individuals, not households. “Marriage doesn’t last forever,” she said. “Women used to rely on their husbands for financial support, but now there’s the danger of unemployment, and more men are in jobs where their pay doesn’t rise.”

“It’s not easy to save for retirement as a part-time worker.”

However, one of the biggest reforms proposed by Abe, “limited full-time worker” status, doesn’t always work as advertised. “Limited full-time” employees often face the same workload they would if they were full-time. Junko Murata, 43, a mother of two, said juggling both work and taking care of her children proved too difficult, so she eventually returned to a part-time job.

While an increasing number of companies have been giving women the opportunity to work more flexible hours after they return from maternity leave, some women complain of being marginalized, with few opportunities for career growth and advancement.

A government survey released last year offered a bleak outlook. It showed no improvement in gender equality in the workplace, with some 28.4 percent of women saying they are treated equally at work, up only 0.2 percentage points since 2016.

Yasuko Kato, 42, returned to work as a part-time accountant three years ago, but said there’s been little change in her responsibilities.

Because she drops off and picks up her kids, she works from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “I have no extra time at work,” she said. But because of a chronic staff shortage, she doesn’t get any help from full-time employees. As a result, Kato said “it’s difficult to raise my hand for a new role.”

Enquanto isso, no Brasil....

Brazil's culture minister has been sacked after using parts of a speech by Nazi Germany's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in a video, sparking outrage.

In the clip posted on the ministry's Twitter page, Roberto Alvim detailed an award for "heroic" and "national" art.

Lohengrin by Wagner, Hitler's favourite composer, played in the background. Earlier, Mr Alvim said the now-deleted video was a "rhetorical coincidence".

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said the speech had been "unfortunate".

"I reiterate our rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, such as Nazism and communism, as well as any inference to them. We also express our full and unrestricted support for the Jewish community, of which we're friends and share many common values," the president said on Twitter.

In the six-minute video detailing the National Arts Awards, Mr Alvim said: "The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national, will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement... deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing."

Parts of it were identical to a speech quoted in the book Joseph Goebbels: A Biography, by German historian Peter Longerich, who has written several works on the Holocaust.

"The German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be steely-romantic, it will be factual and completely free of sentimentality, it will be national with great pathos and binding, or it will be nothing."

Think the culture minister even knew? Unless there is a history there I bet it was just some speech writer copying or remembering phrases and the guy giving the speech didn't even know of the connection.

Reminds me of The Office episode where Jim gave Dwight one of Mussolini's speeches and all of upper-management loved it.

Let it not go unremarked that China closed off an entire city of 11 million people to fight the Coronavirus outbreak.

Prederick wrote:

Let it not go unremarked that China closed off an entire city of 11 million people to fight the Coronavirus outbreak.

Now thirty-six million people.

Wuhan, where the outbreak began, is rapidly building a new hospital.

The city - home to around 11 million people - is struggling to cope with the increasing number of patients.

State-owned news outlet Changjiang Daily said the 1,000-bed hospital could be ready by 3 February. A total of 35 diggers and 10 bulldozers are currently working on the site.

The project will "solve the shortage of existing medical resources" and would be "built fast [and] not cost much... because it will be prefabricated buildings", the outlet said.

Videos have been circulating on social media, reportedly taken by Wuhan residents, showing long queues at local hospitals.


Overtourism in Europe's historic cities sparks backlash

Across Europe, historic cities are buckling. Mass tourism, encouraged by cash-hungry councils after the 2008 crash and fuelled by the explosion of cheap flights and online room rentals, has become a monster. The backlash, however, has begun.

In the past decade, the number of low-cost airline seats available each year in Europe has risen by more than 10% annually, more than doubling to more than 500m.

Meanwhile Airbnb, the biggest but far from only holiday lettings platform, has reported triple-digit growth in several European cities over the past five years, driving 10 of them to ask the EU for help. The cities have between 10,000 and 60,000 listings each.

The net result is that over the course of a year, popular short-break destinations such as Barcelona and Amsterdam are hosting 20 or more visitors for each inhabitant, prompting angry protests from locals and forcing city halls to take action.

It is not always evident, however, what that action should be – or if it will work. The trade-off between the revenues and jobs generated through tourism and quality of life is a tricky one. So the idea is not discouragement but management, say city halls.

I... just.... c'mon.

Meanwhile....

Coronavirus's ability to spread getting stronger, China suggests

New and tougher restrictions on movement and the trade in wild animals are to be imposed in China to try to contain the pneumonia outbreak caused by a new coronavirus, the country’s health commission minister has said, warning that the virus was showing greater potential to pass from one person to another, possibly before symptoms show.

“The transmissibility shows signs of increasing,” said Ma Xiaowei on Sunday, but he added that much was still unknown about the virus.

“For this new coronavirus we have not identified the source of the infection and we are not clear about the risk of its mutation and how it spreads,” he said. “Since this is a new coronavirus there might be some changes in the coming days and weeks, and the danger it poses to people of different ages is also changing.”

The possibility that, unlike Sars, people can pass on the virus before they appear to be ill is very alarming to public health experts. It would make the virus far harder to detect and make it much more difficult to quarantine cases.

Health teams are working urgently to determine the origin of the disease. It is from the same family of viruses as Sars, which was passed to humans from bats by masked palm civets, and Mers, which was carried from bats to humans by camels.

This is literally how the disease got started in Contagion. Like, literally. Although that was a communicable form of encephalitis. It's a great movie, and I would not recommend watching it at the moment!

The new nationwide ban on the sale of wildlife will affect markets, restaurants and online shops. Health experts have long raised concerns about unhygienic and cramped conditions in some Chinese markets, where wild and often poached animals are packed together.

Perhaps hang onto that poached wildlife ban for a bit?

But even with these advantages, Japanese women — whether single or married, full-time or part-time — face a difficult financial future. A confluence of factors that include an aging population, falling birthrates and anachronistic gender dynamics are conspiring to damage their prospects for a comfortable retirement. According to Seiichi Inagaki, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, the poverty rate for older women will more than double over the next 40 years, to 25 percent.

Anachronistic gender dynamics, the economic anxiety of sexism.

Rat Boy wrote:

Makers of Plague Inc. ask people not to use their game to learn about the coronavirus. But I already booked my trip to Madagascar.

Morroco and Greenland should also be top of your list.

thrawn82 wrote:
Rat Boy wrote:

Makers of Plague Inc. ask people not to use their game to learn about the coronavirus. But I already booked my trip to Madagascar.

Morroco and Greenland should also be top of your list.

Nah, it's been Madagascar since 2008.

Something heartwarming but also oddly hilarious about Australia being like "Listen, thank you, but stop sending us Koala mittens."

Germany confirms first human coronavirus transmission in Europe

The first human-to-human transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus in Europe has been reported in Germany, where a man was infected by a colleague who had been in China, fuelling anxieties about the potential ease of international spread.

Experts said it was of particular concern that the Chinese woman who originally had the virus apparently had no symptoms when she transmitted it to her colleague. There have been warnings from inside China that people may be infectious before they start to feel ill.

So far there has been very limited spread from China. A handful of countries have reported cases including France, which has three, and the United States, which has five. This is the first reported European case of transmission from one person to another but it has also occurred in Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Since the incubation period for symptoms is measured in weeks and it is contagious before symptoms appear, I expect we'll see an explosion of cases in the next couple of weeks.

I really wish people were this concerned about Influenza, which is staggeringly more virulent. Thus far the CDC reports that in the USA alone there have been 13 million influenza illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6,600 influenza-related deaths. In contrast, China has had only 4,500 coronavirus infections and 106 coronavirus-related deaths.

If something changes with the virulence factor of the current novel coronavirus that suddenly ups its lethality, then I would agree that we need to take it more seriously. As it stands, it's a freaking cold with good marketing.

Well google tells me the fatality rate of the new virus is two percent, much higher than seasonal flu although lower than SARS. This could be exaggerated by where the majority of cases have occurred so far and the quality of healthcare there. The fatality rate is likely to be lower in Europe I presume.

Anyway, as someone who gets a flu vaccination every year and practices preventative hygiene, I’m also concerned about this outbreak.