Archive for April 2011

NE Japan Earthquake Day 50: Nuclear Safety Professor Kosako Resigns from Government in Protest of its Fukushima Response; Prime Minister Kan Apologizes After Top LDP Adviser’s Criticism

April 30, 2011

Nuclear Safety Professor Kosako Resigns from Government in Protest of its Fukushima Response
Yomiuri Shimbun: 小佐古参与「官邸の対応場当たり的」と辞職届
Staff Report, April 29, 2011

Doctor Toshisō Kosako, Professor of Radiation Safety at Tokyo University, said in a Parliament press conference on the 29th that he had resigned from the Cabinet position he assumed last month because of the government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying “its actions have been unlawful, and it isn’t clear who’s making the decisions. I cannot accept that.” His resignation is effective on the 30th.

On the night of the 29th, Dr. Kosako visited the Prime Minister’s residence and requested a meeting with him. It was not granted, so the secretariat received and confirmed his resignation.

In a press interview afterward, Dr. Kosako said his resignation was based on “the government’s actions at the site of the disaster. I made many suggestions, but they weren’t accepted.”

In particular, he criticized the government’s request that elementary schools and other campuses with radiation levels above 20 millisieverts continue to be used: “I can’t forgive them for their willingness to put elementary school students in such conditions.”

Prime Minister Kan Apologizes After Top LDP Adviser’s Criticism
Yomiuri Shimbun: 首相「おわび申し上げたい」最高顧問の苦言に
Staff Report, April 29, 2011

“For him to simply say ‘join the Cabinet’ over the phone shows obvious political inexperience.”

In a Lower House budget meeting on the 29th, top Liberal Democratic Party adviser Kōzō Watanabe had harsh words for Prime Minister Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan, who on March 19, a week after the Great Tōhoku Earthquake, called LDP President Tanigaki and asked him to join the Cabinet.

Mr. Watanabe said, “It wasn’t wrong to ask Mr. Tanigaki for help, but the way he did it was wrong…I would have come to the LDP Headquarters, offered Mr. Tanigaki my hand, and said ‘For the sake of our country, please become the Prime Minister. I will serve under you.’ That would be an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Prime Minister Kan listened docilely and responded, “My attitude was lacking in many respects, and I apologize.” In response to another question about the affair from LDP Government Oversight Chairman Ishiba, the Prime Minister said, “It definitely wasn’t appropriate, and I regret my imprudence.”



Ephemeral Art in Unexpected Places

April 29, 2011

CorpusTrip Art Exhibition
The exposition of the CorpusTrip project, which premiered in an old palace in Rome and was displayed for a few hours.

Ephemeral Art in Unexpected Places
“Speed Shows,” Fleeting Creative Events for Convulsive Times
El País: Arte efímero en lugar insospechado
Roberto Bosco reporting from Barcelona, April 28, 2011

The large black and white portraits are hung up like laundry in the galleries of an old Roman palace celebrated for lending its scenery to various neo-realist films. The exposition, organized by the Mondrian Suite gallery, will last only one night, which heightens curiosity and interest. This is the debut of CorpusTrip, a project by the photographer Luca Donnini, who has decided to unite 65 portraits he took from 2007-2010 for an itinerant and extemporaneous exhibit. With his van fill of images, he will cover about 10,000 kilometers of European roads over the next two months, mounting the exhibition for one night only, and never in a traditional art gallery, in the twenty cities where he originally took the pictures. After passing through Barcelona and Madrid, he will continue through Bordeaux, Paris, London, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Prague, and Ljubljana, among other cities.

For all the dates and places, you will have to visit the web site and blog, where the adventure will be related in real time. “In museums and galleries, artwork is waiting for someone to come in and see it, and the spectator already knows he’s going to see. I want to create unexpected situations where the people encounter the pieces by accident as well,” Donnini explained. “We want people to help us find sites and get involved with this exhibit – this happening, which will never last more than a night. After that, the works will be abandoned to fate,” adds the photographer, who works with an analog Rolleiflex. This is not the first time that Donnini has left the assembly of an exhibit to the public. To wit, his pieces have a double life: the imagines made in the dark room or painted by the artist’s hand are destined for the art market, while the blue back copies are used for projects like CorpusTrip, which the filmmaker Alessio Maximilian will document and convert into a movie.

Speed shows, lightning exhibitions, are multiplying. Domenico Quaranta, who was commissar of the digital art section in the last ArcoMadrid fair, has just finished one in a Barcelona cybercafe sponsored by the “Guerrilla Communication” brand Influencers.

For the rapid Raise your flag exposition, which lasted only a couple hours, Quaranta rented all of a cybercafe’s computers and in their windows loaded works created on the Internet, “a radical environment where we can realize projects and experiments that would be impossible in other formats, based on the creation of relationships, where art converts into a dialogue, an interchange, a collective manipulation of images, data, archives, and myth,” he expounded.

The formula was created by the German artist Aram Bartholl, author of the Speed Show Manifesto, in which he explained that the idea came from “revisiting the phenomenon now that social networks have displayed their full power and have converted into a part of daily life for hundreds of millions of people.”

Although lightning exhibitions were first created with and for online works – including live performances, which were retransmitted through preinstalled communication programs for teleconferences or video chat – they have rapidly diffused from northern Europe throughout the world, finding support among artists of diverse disciplines and in different versions: from those who open their studios for a night to those who modify and corrupt public spaces with works that pass through like meteorites.

Ana María Matute: “He Who Doesn’t Invent Doesn’t Live”

April 28, 2011

Ana María Matute receives Cervantes Prize from the King of Spain
The King bestows the Cervantes Prize on Ana María Matute. Photo by Ángel Díaz (AP).

Ana María Matute: “He Who Doesn’t Invent Doesn’t Live”
El País: Ana María Matute: “El que no inventa no vive”
Borja Hermoso reporting from Alcalá de Henares, April 27, 2011

Shorter and less erudite, closer and more sincere was the speech Ana María Matute gave this afternoon in Alcalá de Henares upon receiving the Cervantes Prize, and it made an impression on the attendees. In the presence of the King and Queen, the President, and other authorities, this fragile dame of 84 years unfurled a steely and beautiful defense of inventiveness as life’s supreme value. “He who doesn’t invent doesn’t live,” Matute asserted with conviction. She is the third woman to receive the most prestigious award in Spanish letters. The only other two women honored in the three-decade history of the prize were the Spanish philosopher María Zambrano and the Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz.

The nearness of Matute’s words was perhaps reinforced by the location from which she gave them: instead of rising to the solemn plateresque headmaster’s chair in the auditorium of the University of Alcalá de Henares, she sat in a rolling chair next to a short table. A halo of intimacy and tenderness enveloped her words. She sketched a lively tale of her relationship with literature: “mine is a life of paper.”

Writing fiction has been her shelter from the storm: “Literature has been my lighthouse of salvation during many a tempest.” The Civil War occurred when she was eleven years old; she learned then of “terror and hatred” and of a world that would suddenly turn for the worse over and over again. Matute was part of “the generation of shadow children” and came to understand the importance of texts that whisked one away from it all with a “once upon a time…” Matute, in her tender discourse, also came to the defense of the story as the greatest genre of writing.

The Catalan writer considers fiction a sanctuary where one can hide away and where the characters in a sense protect the reader. “If some day you encounter my stories and my creatures, believe in them, because I have invented them,” Matute concluded.

“An Employment Generator”
Matute’s words were echoed by the Minister of Culture, Ángeles González-Sinde, who praised (among the writer’s other virtues) that she was an “employment generator”: “I ask you to remember that this storyteller, this seeker of the inexplicable is also an enormous employment generator. Sometimes I ask myself, “How many booksellers have paid their rent thanks to Matute? How many distributors? How many editors, paper generators, transporters, receptionists, telephone operators, accountants, administrators, secretaries, and translators in how many publishing companies? I see the new arrival tables in our bookstores, the hundreds of thousands of registries generated on the web in fractions of a second with little more than the typing of a name, and I think: this country has a future, and it will come about through its culture. Culture is where we find the strength to change reality. Culture is where we can save what’s most fragile and create a lesser world that is a mirror and a map of the greater one.”

The Ministry of Culture gives the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, which includes 125,000 euros, to “the writers who contribute works of notable quality that enrich the legacy of Hispanic literature.” It was given for the first time to Jorge Guillén in 1976, and including this year, 34 authors have been honored. In 1979, the price was given ex aequo to (shared by) Jorge Luis Borges and Gerardo Diego.

Ana María Matute at Cervantes Ceremony
The writer looks at the King and Queen and folds her hands in thanks. Photo by Ángel Díaz (AP).

Real Madrid Players in Perfect Shape Despite Never Setting Foot in a Gym

April 27, 2011

Iniesta Surrounded by Madrid PlayersBarcelona’s Iniesta tries to control the ball while surrounded by Madrid players. Photo by Álvaro García.

Champions League Semifinal Game 1 Preview
Real Madrid Players in Perfect Shape Despite Never Setting Foot in a Gym
Coach Mourinho brings his players to the climax of the season in top condition without having weightlifting or physical training sessions
El País: Fuertes sin pisar el gimnasio
Diego Torres reporting from Madrid April 26, 2011

The first thing that caught the attention of Real Madrid players during their first preseason with José Mourinho last summer was that there weren’t any training sessions devoted exclusively to physical fitness. Their trainer, Rui Faria, the coach’s right hand man, didn’t make them run to exercise their hearts or lungs, nor were there weights to lift, ramps to climb, or obstacles to jump. “We only played games: three on three, three on two, four on three, five on five…” one player recalls. “We played every day on fields of varying size with goals that increased or decreased in number and size.

Some players were incredulous. “You’re going to feel great at the end of the season,” Mourinho assured them. The staff, in a stroke, did away with traditional physical training. There were only games with soccer balls, entertaining but intense routines which allowed them to naturally exercise their minds and bodies at the same time.

In the book ¿Por qué tantas victorias? (Why So Many Victories?) Mourinho said he’d never run a training session without a ball because the ball is the focal point of the sport. The players train in order to play, and they physically evolve as a consequence of that. “In favoring tactics, I am doing a favor to all the other aspects of performance,” he said, “because the rest necessarily proceed from tactics. I don’t believe there are clubs who are well or poorly conditioned, just teams that have or don’t have a strategy. The body adapts to a specific way of playing. Technical, physical, and psychological matters (like concentration) flow in currents.”

Eight months removed from the preseason, Madrid is in peak health. If it has an advantage over Barcelona in this round of the Champions League, it is that its players are fresher. In addition, having a deeper bench means the average Madrid player has played 300 less game minutes than the average Barcelona player this year.

The team’s method hasn’t changed this season. On the contrary, the usual starters, like Ronaldo, Alonso, and Ramos, are hardly training. Sessions on grass are minimal: 15 minutes, some stretching, and then rest. The gym is reserved for the injured or those who have a shortcoming to correct.

Training sessions last an hour, and the short practice games are carefully timed, between 10 and 20 minutes long, paced on a rhythm. The players say they aren’t allowed to stop. They must be constantly moving and giving their maximum effort. “We have a few seconds to rest or drink water,” one says, “and if you get caught up talking to someone, you won’t have time to drink anything.” Mourinho cyclically interrupts games to practice defensive tactics with groups of 11. Everyone recognizes the Portuguese does excellent work in this regard.

Thanks to his success, Mourinho has popularized a model, “Integrated Training,” which was conceived in Barcelona under Louis van Gaal. Integrated Training was conceived by Paco Seirul when he was the trainer for Valero Rivera’s Barcelona handball team. From there, the system passed to football through Johann Cruyff and Van Gaal. Juanma Lillo completed its application to the game when he coached Zaragoza in 2000. “Practically no traditional physical training methods are suitable for football players because they were inspired by mechanism and behaviorism,” says Lillo. “The old trainers came from athletic backgrounds, and they were inspired by the theory of linearity. But nothing is less linear than human life, and a group of 25 human lives is even less so.”

As Lillo says, “A football player training without a ball is like Rafael Nadal training his arm without integrating it with the rest of his body.”

Rui Faria and Mourinho practice this philosophy in Madrid, and their players are thankful for it.

Princeton University Assures the Late Professor Calvo’s Dismissal was Appropriate

April 26, 2011

Professor Antonio CalvoThe late Antonio Calvo, Princeton University Spanish Professor

Princeton University Assures the Late Professor Calvo’s Dismissal was Appropriate
The university recommended “immediate suspension” of his contract after finding proof of “inadequate conduct.” It was silent on the matter for two weeks in order to protect the privacy and honor of the late professor.
El País: Princeton asegura que el despido de Calvo fue procedente
David Alandete reporting from Princeton, New Jersey April 25, 2011

A student-led petition for information about Princeton University Spanish professor Antonio Calvo, who committed suicide on April 12 in New York, four days after being dismissed from the university, has reaped its first official consequences. After almost two weeks of silence, the rector of the university, Shirley M. Tilghman, sent a missive to the academic community on Monday assuring that the professor’s dismissal, six weeks before the end of the semester and before the expiration of his five-year contract, followed university guidelines, and it has withheld further information in order to protect Calvo’s honor and privacy.

“The specific events leading up to Professor Calvo’s abrupt leave from the University came out of a review whose contents cannot be disclosed without an unprecedented breach of confidentiality,” she said. “That policy is in place to protect the privacy of the individual faculty or staff member, and his or her family. An unfortunate consequence of this policy is that in the absence of the facts, untrue and misleading rumors have been swirling on campus and in the blogosphere. Most problematically, innocent individuals on campus have been identified and fingers pointed in a manner that is deeply unfair, hurtful and unworthy of this university community.”

President Tilghman referred to a series of rumors disseminated in various North American media that the departure was motivated by a supposed protest campaign led by certain graduate students who wanted Calvo to leave the university. Tilghman, however, has explained that the university was already obligated to subject Calvo to a renewal process before his five-year contract expired the next spring: “if any allegations of improper conduct arise in the course of the review, they must be thoroughly investigated, and the findings reported to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements (often referred to on campus as ‘the Committee of Three’).”

This committee is composed of the president, the provost (who is in charge of the university’s academic budget), the pertinent deans (administrators) of the faculty, postgraduate school, and teaching staff, and six members of the professorate. “In rare cases the Committee recommends immediate suspension,” the president admits. In this case, it did, obligating Calvo to leave Princeton before the end of the semester. Calvo was given the opportunity to defend himself in another meeting scheduled for April 11. He did not attend, and the next day he committed suicide.

Student Anger
The university has avoided commenting on the suicide from the beginning and maintained a policy of silence for 13 days. This angered Calvo’s students, who had come to his class and waited for him on the 8th and the 11th. In an open letter, senior Philip Rohaus demanded an explanation from the university for his dismissal, and he called a meeting on campus which took place last Saturday and had 25 participants. There, the students decided to demand that the administration explain the procedure which lead to Calvo’s dismissal.

Now, the president herself has responded, saying that there was proof of “improper conduct” and that “it is never possible to fully understand all the circumstances that lead someone to take such an irreversible decision.” Calvo, who is very popular with his students, founded a school trip to Toledo and was faculty director of the Spanish Department. According to the New York forensic department, he died from wounds to his neck and left wrist.

The Thrifty Driving Techniques No One Knows About

April 25, 2011

Efficient DrivingConsuming less fuel also means emitting less CO2. Photo by Jorge Guerrero (AFP).

The Thrifty Driving Techniques No One Knows About
El País: Se gasta menos, pero solo lo sabe una minoría
Patricia R. Blanco, April 25, 2011

20% savings on gasoline is nothing to sneeze at, especially now that the war in Libya has driven oil prices to historic highs. Though the best way to save gasoline is to leave the car in the garage, experts agree that efficient driving is another good way to cut down the fuel bill. It’s more effective, in fact, than the controversial 110-km/h (68 mph) speed limit the government adopted on February 25 to save energy. So-called “intelligent driving techniques” like going long stretches with stable velocity and starting the engine without pressing the accelerator have been extensively publicized by automobile clubs, drivers’ associations, and motorheads as if they were Holy Grails of fuel economization. But theory is one thing, and practice is another.

“It’s good, attractive, and cheap,” summarized Bernardo Hernández, coordinator of efficient driving courses at the National Confederation of Driving Schools (CNAE). According to this expert, “intelligent driving” not only decreases fuel consumption; it also helps maintain the brakes, the clutch, the tires, the transmission, and the motor. It also reduces CO2 emissions – one liter of gasoline produces 2.32 kg of CO2 (1 gallon = 19.32 lb CO2); one liter of diesel, 2.68 kg (22.32 lb per gallon). In addition, efficient driving techniques, like avoiding abrupt acceleration and braking and maintaining constant velocity, improve the security of the passengers and the comfort of the driver. For example, a car driving 4000 rpm (tire revolutions per minute) makes as much noise as 32 cars going a more efficient 2000 rpm.

But reducing fuel consumption is the immediate priority for both consumers and the government, especially a country like Spain which imports 75% of its energy, including 600 millions of oil per year; an increase of 10 euros in the price of a barrel of oil costs Spain close to 6 billion euros in annual terms, says Miguel Sebastián’s Ministry of Industry . In this context, and with the possibility raised by Vice President Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba that petroleum price hikes will set off an economic crisis, the ministry is advising energy-saving measures. The transportation sector consumes more than 60% of the country’s crude oil, and 80% of that is from road traffic alone.

The government has proposed – or more precisely, has imposed – that until June 30 (for the moment), the maximum speed shall be 110 km/h, which could cut fuel usage by 11%. Efficient driving would yield savings of up to 20%. But is it possible for the 25 million drivers circulating on Spanish roads to quickly internalize a new driving philosophy?

There are methods like correcting tire pressure, not lowering the windows, and maintaining interior temperature at 23-24°C (73-75°F) which would be easy to learn from a manual. Others would demand greater effort and depend on the skill of the driver.

“Efficient driving is a different concept,” says one instructor, “but in reality, it is based on very simple rules” which take advantage of new vehicle technology. Though auto schools teach to brake with the motor, that is to say downshift to second gear or so, it would be more efficient to stop at fourth gear, safety permitting. You can also skip gears – for example, go from second to fourth – and traverse the city at 50 km/h (31 mph) in fifth gear or even sixth.

But not all auto schools teach the lauded practices of efficient driving. “The examiners should pass through a formation process, and there have to be criteria for standardized instruction,” explains the director of the General Traffic Office (DGT), Pere Navarro, who, after a pause, added that from 2012 aspiring drivers should have to take efficient driving courses to receive licenses. For the moment, 800 examiners have taken training courses, although 11,000, according to 2009 data (nothing has yet been released for 2010), have benefited from courses sponsored by the Institute of Energy Diversification and Economization (IDAE) in collaboration with Autonomous Communities (states), in accordance with the 2008-2012 Plan of Action for Saving and Efficiency Strategy.

According to this agreement, the IDAE, which has promoted efficient driving since 2007, “will invest 246 million euros, and the Autonomous Communities 71, making a budget of 317 million euros for our operation,” explained Juan Antonio Alonso, director of the institute’s Department of Energy Saving and Efficiency. Of these, a part – 16 million over four years – is dedicated to efficient driving courses. “In some communities, they are free, though the IDAE’s philosophy is that the user should pay a part,” Alonso said.

Until now, more than 110,000 car drivers, including driving school teachers, and more than 30,000 truck drivers have taken these courses. That is to say, 0.5% of the 25 million drivers in Spain have, at the least, notions about efficient driving.

There are two kinds of courses: for private automobiles and for industrial vehicles. The first is four hours long for owners of normal B licenses and five hours for driving instructors. The industrial vehicle course takes 7-8 hours and is designed for those with permission to drive trucks and buses as well as their teachers. All these courses have a theoretical class and at least two practice classes.

The state of Madrid offered, for example, 9500 free courses in 2009 and 5600 in 2010. In Andalusia, 6662 people attended courses for light vehicles and 1558 for heavy ones in 2010; in Castilla y León, the numbers were about 3000 and 600, respectively.

“People are delighted and change their driving when we tell them they can skip gears or that they spend more gasoline when stopped than when they are moving without accelerating,” says Bernardo Hernández proudly. The average alumnus reduces his fuel consumption by 17%, though the CNAE’s efficient driving professors notes that these are savings after a practical class, after the student has perfectly assimilated the concepts.

The typical student of an IDAE-financed course is a government employee or university professor or teacher. “They recommend the courses to each other,” says Hernández. Transportation businesses also push their employees to drive more efficiently: “it affects the bottom line,” says Pere Nevarro.

Yet there are not enough IDAE courses to meet demand. According to sources in the National Confederation of Auto Schools, in Castilla y León, for example, more than one thousand people could not get into a class in 2010. What alternatives are there? “If you go to an auto school, the average price is 150 euros, and you won’t have an IDAE diploma,” the CNAE explains.

Although the average Spanish driver doesn’t need to be told that he can’t go from 0 to 120, “he has definite room for improvement in comparison to other European drivers,” the general director of the IDAE, Alfonso Beltrán says in support of intelligent driving education. But for now, such schooling isn’t easy to find.

NE Japan Earthquake Day 45: Nuclear Safety Commission Underestimated Airborne Radiation Severalfold (Correct Estimate 154tBq Per Day); Two Anonymous Men Hand Out Cash at Refugee Centers (Over ¥50 Million in All?)

April 24, 2011

Nuclear Safety Commission Underestimated Airborne Radiation Severalfold (Correct Estimate 154tBq Per Day)
Yomiuri Shimbun: 放射能の大気放出続く…1日154兆ベクレル
April 23, 2011

On the 23rd, the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission announced that even on April 5, a calm day, 154 terabecquerels of radiation escaped from Fukushima I Reactor into the atmosphere.

Fukushima I released an estimated 0.69 terabecquerels of iodine-131 and 0.14 terabecquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere each hour on the 5th. After using the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)’s cesium-to-iodine conversion standard, the Commission recalculated that hourly radiation was 6.4 terabequerels, which amounts to 154 terabecquerels in 24 hours. The commission had simply added the iodine and cesium totals together before; hence it erroneously estimated there was less than one terabecquerel of radiation per hour.

Two Anonymous Men Hand Out Cash at Refugee Centers (Over ¥50 Million in All?)
Yomiuri Shimbun: 全部で5千万円以上?避難所で現金配る2人組
April 23, 2011

Two men who identified themselves as members of the “Western Japan Volunteer Association” and the “Western Japan Retail Cooperative” appeared at a disaster relief center in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture and handed cash directly to refugees.

The city’s Disaster Response Headquarters announced the occurrence on the 23rd.

According to the city, the two appeared at six of the city’s refugee centers on the 21st and 22nd and passed out envelopes containing ¥30,000 ($375) each. They handed 170 such envelopes at the Oshika town hall, over 5 million yen ($62,500) in all, and continued passing out money over staff objections until leaving.

When refugees of other cities heard the news, they called Ishinomaki City to complain about unfairness. City Hall said, “We appreciate our benefactors’ sentiment, but we would have liked them to distribute their donation more evenly.”