[News] News From Other Places!

It's news you can use from places with different views! (Don't misuse or abuse you yahoos.)

Have you read this Guardian article about how housing was formerly (and probably still is to a large degree) viewed as an asset to be knocked down and rebuilt as a new family moves in?

I would also like to hear from those onshore there as to how they perceive things. I only spent a week on holiday there in 2019 and women only train carriages should speak for themselves as to how bad the train molesting (an extension of the toxic masculinity) is in Japan.

It's definitely ahead of a lot of Asian countries from what I've seen in my travels but the infrastructure hasn't aged that well. For example, trying to navigate around Tokyo on the metro was a nightmare of multiple stations with no clear connections. I'm sure this is a byproduct of the private network system they had over time and in comparison the ability to transit from different rail networks within a single concourse is something I appreciate we have in Sydney. However our city has 6m vs 25m+ in greater Tokyo, so there's that.

Chinese population decline? Uh, that sounds like a good thing. Problematic for the economy of course, but maybe they should start saving for it now then.

In the late 1980s, Japanese people were richer than Americans. Now they earn less than Britons.

Earning less than Britons? Ouch, that must sting. I dont think they have to worry too much, Britain will catch up in the race to the bottom.

I’ll have to be short, on the phone.

Japan’s public transportation is way ahead of Australia. In terms of coverage, reliability, frequency. Of course, it’s not a fair comparison as Australia has to cover wider areas with less dense populations and less public funds to pay for it all. Also, the Australian car culture means that there isn’t the widespread public pressure to improve things.

Property is a weird one. There is a culture that everyone wants a newly built place. Apartments lose 30% of their value the first day someone moves in and they don’t tend to appreciate over time. I think this is changing as the number of temporary workers is increasing and they just can’t afford new. On the other hand, if you are happy to buy secondhand, Japan is easily one of the most affordable countries to buy property. To get the equivalent to my current place in either Melbourne or Sydney would be at least 3-4x. Add in a home loan rate of 1-1.5% and a government incentive which awards you 1% of the value of the home loan back per year as a kind of tax incentive, Australia can’t compete. And that’s with Australian salaries being double what you might get in Japan. Just in addition, the public healthcare is not bad at all, it’s pretty much a flat 70% on everything, additional rebates if your annual expenses (you and any dependents) are over about $1000. And the base prices are generally cheaper than AU. So you would only consider private health insurance if you had special circumstances.

Basically the three of us live reasonably comfortably on just my low-mid salary with no car (which we don’t need) in an apartment more than half paid off that I frankly find luxurious but I think for my wife is just fine.

Back to the original post. Japan is an odd one, compared to its peers I guess. There’s a kind of societal, economic momentum, not sure how else to describe it. Things just tend to be very stable, the government makes conservative decisions, people don’t like big changes. The negative is that when other countries are experiencing explosive economic growth and societal change, Japan appears stagnant and boring. On the other hand, when there is a catastrophic global event like the pandemic, Japan just motors on, affected but nowhere near to the level of hardship that most other places experience. Is this sustainable? Probably not in the long term.

Japan has an aging population and that will be a continuing problem. There are a few counterbalances to this. The government bumps the proportion of salary that workers/companies pay into the pension system at least once a year to keep the system funded. The generally better health of people allows them to work later in life. The government also offers incentives to delay your pension until up to 75 (instead of taking it at 65) and get significantly better payouts. Compared to its neighbor South Korea, Japan’s low birth rate doesn’t seem so bad.

So what is to be done? Obviously more government support for low income and single parent families. More incentives for child births. But the big one is immigration. Especially with regard to refugees. Japan is currently failing to meet its obligations to take in refugees. Japan’s intake is pitiful compared to probably any country you can name. In addition, Japan’s skilled migrant program is corrupt and needs to be overhauled. Companies are bringing over workers, mistreating them and basically taking advantage of the system. In most cases, workers cannot even bring their families. Anyway, the current immigration intake could probably be increased 10x or more and it still wouldn’t be enough to stabilize the population. But it would be a start.

In terms of infrastructure, Japan has excess transportation capacity, a glut of vacant housing (related to the undesirability of secondhand housing along with the declining population), and schools in need of students to stay open.

Oh don't get me wrong, Australian public transport can definitely be criticized but the ability to transit, at least in Sydney, amongst rail lines is pretty easy. Contrast that to Tokyo's metro where we once exited a station, walked around in circles in confusion with Apple Maps / Google Maps to find another subway entry a couple of hundred metres down the street with no clear signage or wandered around vaguely trying to spot a station entry. Generally however Japan signage and metro were usually easy and convenient...unless you were lugging a huge suitcase in which case good luck finding a lift or escalator at every station.

There was an article recently how Japan was finally abandoning floppy disks. I have no idea how they fit anything on them in the modern era where PDFs often exceeded 2MB but yeah what a surprise. They also apparently love their fax machines. I keep a fax number as a law firm but heck the last time I actually used it was years ago; once the government enacted laws to permit emails as an accepted form of giving written notice, everyone here sighed in relief.

No idea about the floppy disks. I haven’t seen a floppy disk the entire time I’ve been here (since ‘06). Sounds like someone needed to get an article out. Most work machines even have their usb slots locked down.

My company finally gave up faxes around 5 years ago. We still heavily make use of CDs and DVDs. So there is that.

When I moved to Melbourne I was super impressed with the train system. But it notably deteriorated in reliability during the time I was there (related to being privatized) and it’s only gotten worse if my FB feed can be believed.

Apparently the floppy disk use is a government thing

Japan decides it's time to stop using floppy disks, report says

The government attempted to start phasing out floppy disks last year, a decade after Sony stopped producing them. Tokyo's city government started opting for online storage formats last year.

The article says floppy disks AND CDs so I would have to really question what level of usage we are talking about for these floppy disks. As Bfgp mentioned, there's literally almost nothing you could practically store on one.

This one specifically says floppies: The Japanese government is still trying to phase out floppy disks a decade after Sony stopped making them

Local officials in Tokyo had clung on to the floppy, as it was ultra-reliable.

The disks "almost never broke and lost data," Yoichi Ono, who is in charge of managing public funds for Meguro ward, told the Nikkei.

2021, so maybe they’ve been phased out by now.

What data I would ask if I was the writer :p.

Mr GT Chris wrote:

What data I would ask if I was the writer :p.

Windows 3.1.

We still have Windows 7 machines that have been in use here longer than me so I can’t pretend that might not be the case ;).

Having ridden both Australian and Japanese trains, I can offer that the longest delays I ever experienced in each country were roughly the same length (~4 hours). So by that measure the two train systems are equivalent.

(Possible sampling bias: I've ridden Japanese trains daily for decades, and I've ridden Australian trains twice.)

Even when I was a student I was familiar with disappearing train syndrome. There was a train scheduled to arrive but who knows what happened to it. Which kind of sucks when trains were only once an hour on my line! Too bad about those lectures :p.

‘The last generation’: the young Chinese people vowing not to have children

Talk to any young woman in urban China about the prospects of having children and the chances are, they are not keen.

“It costs too much to give kids a decent life. The stuff they teach at school is propaganda, so I’d want to send them to an international school or abroad. But I can’t afford that,” said Kongkong, a 26-year-old researcher who swears she will not have children.

This week, the Chinese government announced the country has entered an “era of negative population growth”, after figures showed a historic drop in the number of people for the first time since the great famine between 1958 and 1961. The population fell by 850,000 to 1.41 billion people in 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Alarmed by the country’s increasingly low total fertility rate, Chinese demographers campaigned to scrap the one-child policy for more than a decade, before the government finally ended it in 2015. But by that time, it was too late to reverse the trend.

Since the 1990s, China’s total fertility rate – the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime – has declined to below the replacement level of 2.1. The figure was 1.30 in 2020 and fell to 1.15 in 2021.

Fearing the adverse effects of an ageing population coupled with a shortage of working-age people, the Chinese government allowed couples to have two children in 2015 and further eased the birth limit to three in 2021.

For years, studies have found the rising costs of bringing up children and the lack of welfare provisions to be the main reasons behind China’s low fertility rate. In recent years, the government has begun to offer incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies for childcare and longer parental leave while discouraging abortions. An academic even controversially suggested that social welfare and pensions should be linked to the number of children people have. But these measures have failed to trigger a baby boom.

Shockingly enough that’s now less than Japan, 1.30 in 2021. South Korea still “winning” with .81.


Lavrov visit to South Africa: Pandor defends joint Russia-China military exercise

outh Africa has defended its decision to hold a joint military exercise with Russia and China next month.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor condemned the "double-standard" which says some countries can perform such exercises but others are not.

"All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide," Dr Pandor added.

The comments came at a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pretoria.

The event attracted a small group of protesters outside the venue, waiving Ukrainian flags.

Dr Pandor went on to slam the suggestion that South Africa cannot conduct the military exercises it wants to as an "abuse of international practice".

"This is just a natural set of exercises that occur between countries," she said.

Last week South Africa's military announced it would hold joint naval drills with Russia and China off its coast next month.

But there has been some criticism that the exercise is not appropriate, given that it coincides with the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Not much information has been given about the exercises, but the state-owned Tass news agency reports that a Russian warship armed with hypersonic cruise weapons will take part.

The Ministry of Defence has also defended the planned drills, saying that South Africa has in the past hosted similar exercises with France, the US and countries from the Western Nato military alliance.

The drills will run for 10 days from 17 February to 27 February in the port city of Durban, and Richards Bay.

The aim is to share operational skills and knowledge, the South African National Defence Force said.

Despite pressure from Western countries to condemn the Russian invasion, South Africa has remained neutral - to the disappointment of Ukraine.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Lavrov said he appreciated the "well balanced" and "considerate" approach of South Africa to the Ukraine war, which South Africa's Dr Pandor said must be resolved diplomatically and through negotiation.

Officials in South Africa have repeatedly said they do not condone the invasion but will not be forced into choosing sides and are continuing to engage with both countries in a business-as-usual manner.

Critics of South Africa's stance have accused the country of playing coy.

South Africa's leaders have a connection to Russian dating back to the fight against white-minority rule, or apartheid, when some members of the country's liberation movement received military training in Russia.

In recent years that relationship has grown into business ties through the Brics bloc of emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Mr Lavrov was also in Africa in July 2022, when he visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville, and South Africa is not alone in refusing to take sides in the war in Ukraine.

Many African nations - including Nigeria and Kenya, the economic powerhouses of West and East Africa respectively - voted in favour of a UN general assembly resolution in March last year, condemning Russian "aggression" and demanding its withdrawal from Ukraine.

However, nearly half of all abstentions - 17 - were from Africa, including South Africa.

Clickbait-ass title, but good piece:

Tiny radioactive capsule lost in Australian outback found by side of 1,400km stretch of road

tiny radioactive capsule that was lost in the Australian outback for more than two weeks and posed a “significant public health risk” has been found by the side of the road.

The 8mm by 6mm capsule, which fell from a secure device on a truck that was travelling from a Rio Tinto mine site in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to Perth, was found south of the town of Newman.

The Australian defence force is now verifying the small radioactive device by its serial number. It is being stored at a secure location in Newman, before being transported to Perth on Thursday, inside a led container to shield people from radiation.

A 20-metre exclusion zone has been established where the device was found, just a short distance from where it began its 1,400km journey to Perth. Authorities will now survey the area for any contamination.


That’s good news.

Rural Taliban warriors disappointed with the grind of city life.

A large number of Taleban fighters have moved to Afghanistan’s cities since the movement’s capture of power, many of them seeing life in the city for the first time in their lifetime. These fighters, many of whom are from villages, had lived modest lives, entirely focused on the war. Their circumstances have changed entirely since the Taleban’s victory. Guest author Sabawoon Samim has interviewed five members of the Taleban who have come to live in Kabul, a city they had seen as being at the heart of the ‘foreign occupation’ with its ‘puppet government’ and a population degraded by Western ways. How have they found the actual Kabul and its people, and what do they think about having to earn a living for the first time, keep office hours and live in a city full of traffic and millions of other inhabitants?

Some snippets:

I haven’t brought my family to Kabul. The rent of houses is very high for us since our salary is no more than 15,000 afghanis [roughly 180 USD]. It is fully sufficient for Yahyakhel but not for Kabul.
However, these days, you have to go to the office before 8 AM and stay there till 4 PM. If you don’t go, you’re considered absent, and [the wage for] that day is cut from your salary.
The other problem in Kabul is that my comrades are now scattered throughout Afghanistan. Those in Kabul, like me, work from 8 AM to 4 PM. So, most of the week, we don’t get any time to meet each other.
In our ministry, there’s little work for me to do. Therefore, I spend most of my time on Twitter. We’re connected to speedy Wi-Fi and internet. Many mujahedin, including me, are addicted to the internet, especially Twitter.
In those first days, when we sometimes came out of the ministry to Macroyan bazaar, there were a lot of women wearing indecent clothes. We anticipated they would wear hijab,[7] but after the initial days when women feared the mujahedin a lot, their attire has actually become less proper.

Now, they’ve become assertive to the extent they’re entirely heedless of us. Many of our friends say that, apart from us coming and replacing the police and officials of the former regime, little has changed from the Republic’s time in Kabul. During the first few days, many of my comrades and I hardly dared to make our way to the bazaar because of them [women]. We hoped the situation would soon get better, but it didn’t. Even worse, one of my classmates in his computer course is also a woman. We sit in the same classroom. Although I despise women that don’t wear proper clothes, nonetheless, I can’t turn my back on the bazaar or my class because of them. If they’re unashamed, let us also be so. This is the only thing I never imagined a Taleb would encounter in his lifetime.

Kabul is not Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not Kabul. This has been true forever and apparently neither The West NOR the Taliban seem to understand this.

maverickz wrote:

Kabul is not Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not Kabul. This has been true forever and apparently neither The West NOR the Taliban seem to understand this.

Sure, just like New York City is not New York and New York is not New York City. But yeah, I think the greater point is that there is a divide between rural and city life that transcends both time and geography.

I love that the thing that'll destroy the Taliban is late-stage capitalism.

The Taliban Can’t Stop TikTok

AS SIKANDAR NAJIB stands to leave the Prime Steakhouse in Kabul’s Majid Mall, two young men sipping coffees stop him to ask for a selfie. The mall is the place where the city’s more well-to-do youth go to hang out, dine, exercise, and study, and Najib, on his way to sign an endorsement deal, is dressed for the occasion in a three-piece suit.

Najib, 23, is a bona fide celebrity among young, urban Afghans. A former TV presenter and producer, for the past four years he’s made his living on TikTok, posting comic skits to his 413,000 followers. The Kabul he shows is a world away from the one commonly seen on Western media and features upmarket malls, historic sites surrounded by fields of snow, and cooking sessions with local chefs.

In one recent skit, he and fellow TikToker Alee Siddique rolled into a phone shop to ask the owner for an “eggplant”-colored iPhone 14 Pro Max “picked fresh from the bush.” The price—nearly $1,500—triggers a rush of old-timey comedy sound effects. In voiceover, Najib jokes about “selling his kidneys” to pay for it.

The comic tone of their videos is important to Najib and other TikTokers, who say they want their content to serve as a break from the reports of violence, economic crisis, and human rights violations that have dominated headlines in Afghanistan for decades. “Even when they come with a message, we really strive to make our videos funny and light-hearted,” Najib says.

Naijib is one of a few dozen urban twentysomething Afghans who have built massive followings on TikTok, which more and more Afghans across the country now use. There are no official figures for the app’s penetration, with estimates ranging from 325,000 to upwards of 2 million users, but influencers’ videos routinely record hundreds of thousands of views. Over the past couple of years, the app has become a source of escapist entertainment, a place for debate, and a platform for businesses—one that has managed to withstand the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, sanctions, banking restrictions—and even being banned by the new regime.

They released a sex video to shame and silence her. She’s one of many women in Myanmar doxxed and abused on Telegram by supporters of the military

In the summer of 2021, Chomden was abroad, thousands of miles away from her home in Myanmar, when a friend sent her an urgent message informing her that an intimate video of her was being shared online.

When she saw the message, the 25-year-old said she froze “like a statue,” her phone falling from her hand. She had just been doxxed.

A video of a naked Chomden – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – having sex with a former boyfriend, along with her name and Facebook profile picture, was circulating on a public channel on the messaging platform Telegram, and many of the group’s approximately 10,000 followers had begun sending her abusive messages.

It had been just six months since Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was removed from power in a military coup led by General Min Aung Hlaing, who set up the State Administration Council (SAC) and now governs the country’s caretaker government as an unelected prime minister.

Chomden had been on holiday at the time of the February 1 coup, and felt too scared to return home, but she says she had also felt obligated to speak out on social media about the plight of Myanmar’s people and the junta’s swift and brutal repression of critical voices, sharing video testimonies from people still in the country.

Far away from home, she had assumed she would be safe from any reprisals for her criticism of the ruling junta, but Chomden had not considered the possibility of online retribution.

Now, months after the coup, her once private video had been made public – on a channel run by supporters of the military and used to circulate propaganda and dox people believed to oppose the SAC. Chomden’s Facebook picture included a filter showing the flag of Myanmar’s shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG), identifying her as a supporter of the country’s deposed, democratically elected government.

The accompanying text on the Telegram post, written in Burmese by the channel administrator, read: “The whore who is having sex with everyone and recording it in HD… Know your position, slut!”