Archive for July 2011

Spanish Vignette: My Business Career

July 31, 2011

Yo Soy Uno de Ellos

1. Thanks to my father, I obtain a degree in Business Studies from a posh university…
2. …for which my uncle Giulio signs me as a top executive in Buckets of Money, Incorporated…
3. …where for three years I do the work given to me, increasing our net worth by 145%…
4. …after these “brilliant results”, I obtain the prestigious Winner Mucha Past, which gets me a contract for Oligipol, Incorporated…
5. …where I repeat the “spectacular results” from Buckets of Money, for which I receive an offer I can’t refuse from Boiling Bank…
6. …in two years I increase our net worth 307%…
7. …at 32 years of age and after 7 years of “work”, I retire with a 2 million euro annual pension.
8. Today, five years after my “sensational results”, Buckets of Money, Oligopol, and Boiling Bank are all bankrupt and need 2.45 billion euros from the State.

Nov. 20: Spanish General Election

July 30, 2011

Nov. 20: Spanish General Election
El Mundo: 20-N: elecciones generales
Manuel Sánchez reporting from Madrid July 29, 2011

The President has made the announcement from Moncloa (the seat of the government).
The president has yielded to the desires of his party and [its presidential candidate] Rubalcaba.
There will be a parliamentary session in September to resolve unfinished business.
The decision goes against Zapatero’s desire to serve the maximum possible term.
He says that he made the decision “to obey my responsibilities and the public interest.”
He also announced that he will not he will not be a candidate for a seat in Parliament.

November 20 will no longer be remembered only as the date of the death of Francisco Franco. In less than four months, there will be early general elections on that day. The announcement was made by President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has finally yielded to the desires of his party and the Socialist candidate, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, and has decided to end his term early; it could have run until March.

The President made the announcement during a speech in the Palace of Moncloa in which he reviewed the first half of the year. He has practically finished off this year’s parliamentary session, although there will be some meetings at the beginning of September to finish off laws in progress which are to return to the lower house from the Senate.

Although technically it will not be an advance election, what’s certain is that Zapatero made the decision against his will, as he had expressed several times that he wanted to serve the full possible term. The president, with pension reform complete, believes he has finished his political era and culminated the reforms announced in May 2010.

A New Government From the First of January
During the conference in the Moncloa press room, Zapatero strained to explain why he considered the advance election a positive development when he was saying the opposite not long before.

According to the president, “It is convenient that the newly elected government will take on its responsibilities to the country when the fiscal year begins January 1.”

“Certainty is stability, and I’ve been thinking we should have a clear calendar. On January 1, the new government should work on our economic recovery and the reduction of the deficit and should guarantee the consolidation of our recuperation,” the president added.

When asked why precisely he chose 11/20, a historically significant date, Zapatero said that for him, it’s “just another date”. He claimed that he wanted to “fit” the November calendar, with its “festivals and long vacation”: “the 20th of November permits us to sort out the problem of dates that would affect the electoral campaign.”

An Election “Without An Electioneering Aspect”
The President said that the idea of an advanced election “had been thought over and had ripened” for some time, and he preferred to announce the date in order to “project political and economic certainty.”

“Now the public debate will not revolve around the date of the election but rather the work we have to do to complete and finish it,” said Zapatero, who stressed that improving his party’s prospects had no part in his decision. Before departing, the President also announced that he would not be a candidate for the next legislature and he would not attend the mining festival in Rodiezmo (León).

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Requested That Chubu Electric Power Fill Seats and Plant Questions at Public Forum About Company’s Nuclear MOX Project

July 29, 2011

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Requested That Chubu Electric Power Fill Seats and Plant Questions at Public Forum About Company’s Nuclear MOX Project
Yomiuri Shimbun: 保安院、中電にやらせ質問要請…社員に強制せず
2:02 PM July 29, 2011

Chubu Electric Power Company, at the request of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), requested its own employees and business partners attend a federally sponsored public forum about the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant’s MOX Project in August 2007 so that the audience would not be unanimously opposed to the project, according to an internal investigation by the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry whose results were announced on the 29th.

The company says it “did not compel its employees to express a particular opinion,” and it refused to use questions NISA planted in the audience. Since NISA is a nuclear power regulator, the news that it was trying to tilt an open forum in favor of nuclear development is likely to provoke controversy.

After the investigators uncovered a staged email question about reactors 2 and 3 of Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai Nuclear Power Plant (Genkai, Saga Prefecture), it requested a response from the power company by the 29th. According to Chubu Electric Power, before the symposium on August 26, 2007, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told the company (1) to recruit attendees so there wouldn’t be a noticeable number of empty seats, (2) to prepare questions in advance for citizens in the crowd to ask so the Q&A session would not be dominated by people opposeed to the project. The company called for employees, affiliated companies, and locals to attend but said it was “a voluntary decision, and the company would not use a numerical quota or name registry to enforce attendance.”

NISA and the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy planned the symposium to explain the safety of the MOX project. According to the company, about 150 of the 524 people in attendance were its own employees, and it does not know how many of the rest were members of business affiliates. A questionnaire was given asking the attendees about the necessity of the MOX project, and 80% of the responses were positive (“I understand” or “I mostly understand”). At a press conference at company headquarters, Legal Division Chief Shūichi Terata said, “Our biggest goal was to make sure there wouldn’t be a noticeable number of empty seats. We weren’t planning to make a show of the questionnaire results.”

Nuclear Disaster Response Auditor Yoshinori Moriyama, who was the Chief Nuclear Power Safety Inspector when he attended the forum and who spoke for NISA at today’s press conference, said “I don’t recall [our organization making those requests to the company]. If it did happen, it shouldn’t have.”

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Chinese Rail Accident: Investigators Blame Faulty Railway Signal’s Green Light; Rear-Ended Conductor Claims He Had Been Ordered to Stop on Tracks

July 28, 2011

Chinese Investigators Blame Wenzhou Accident on Faulty Railway Signal’s Green Light
Yomiuri Shimbun: 中国高速鉄道、信号「赤」に変わらない重大欠陥
Seiga Higa reporting from Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China 2:00 PM July 28, 2011

According to Xinhua News Agency, the government team investigating the July 23 high-speed rail accident in Wenzhou, Zhejiang had its first general meeting on the 28th. The team reported its initial analysis of the accident: “There was a major technical defect in a railway signal at Wenzhou South Station which caused the signal to malfunction when it was struck by lightning. Afterward, when it was supposed to turn red [because the first train had stopped some distance after the signal], it turned green instead.

When the following train saw the green light, it continued its advance, making the collision possible. The Chinese government also acknowledged the possibility of human error over and above the design failure. The railway signal system was installed in September 2009.

Internet users expressed doubts about the analysis and asked questions like “That’s the only conclusion after several days of investigation?” and “Why did the faulty signal also overwhelm accident prevention systems?”

Rear-Ended Chinese Conductor Claims He Had Been Ordered to Stop on Tracks
Yomiuri Shimbun: 追突された中国高速運転士「停車を指示された」
Seiga Higa reporting from Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China 8:44 AM July 28, 2011

The driver of the train struck from behind on July 23 in Wenzhou, China testified that “We should have been running, but I had been ordered to stop,” a magazine reported on the 27th.

The Internet news magazine South China Weekly reported a conversation between the driver and a passenger immediately after the accident. The official explanation of the accident is that a railway signal malfunctioned after it was struck by lightning. This report raises the possibility that the train stopped on the tracks could have been running, but it was stopped under the orders of a transportation supervisor.

These are the first reported words from a party involved in the accident. The report also raises the possibility that the train’s automatic control systems did not function because they were inadequate. The possibility of human error raises doubts that the truth is as simple as the official story.

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DPJ Proposes Removing 40 Seats from House of Councillors (16.5% of Total), Merging 5 Pairs of Adjacent Districts

July 27, 2011

DPJ Proposes Removing 40 Seats from House of Councillors (16.5% of Total)
Yomiuri Shimbun: 定数40減、10区を合区…民主が参院選改革案
Staff Report 2:38 PM July 27, 2011

At a general meeting of the House of Councillors the morning of the 27th, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan approved the following electoral reform plan for the legislative body, which is the upper house of the Japanese Diet:

(1) Decrease the number of seats by 40, or 16.5%, from 242 to 202. Half the losses would come from representatives elected by region and the other half from representatives determined by proportional representation, maintaining the current 50-50 split.

(2) Merge five pairs of adjacent districts with low numbers of constituents.

The plan was formally approved at the headquarters of the party’s Political Reform Committee. It will be sent to the leader of each party with representatives in the House of Councillors for discussion.

The district pairs to be merged would be Nagano and Yamanashi, Ishikawa and Fukui, Tottori and Shimane, Tokushima and Kochi, and Nagasaki and Saga. (Each of the ten is a prefecture.) Nagano-Yamanashi would have 2 representatives, the other pairs 1 each.

Hiroshima, Kyoto, Gifu, Niigata, Fukushima, and Miyagi would each lose a representative, leaving them with 1 each. Kanagawa would add a 4th representative. The councillor with the most constituents would represent 2.97 times more voters than the one with the least constituents.

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President Obama Signs Executive Order Freezing Yakuza’s American Financial Assets

July 27, 2011

President Obama Signs Executive Order Freezing Yakuza’s American Financial Assets
Yomiuri Shimbun: ヤクザ、米の金融制裁対象に…オバマ大統領署名
Yoshinari Kurose reporting from Washington July 26, 2011

On the 25th, while unveiling the US government’s new Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, President Obama labeled Japanese yakuza (organized crime groups) transnational criminal organizations engaged in narcotic and human trafficking and signed an executive order freezing their American financial assets.

This bill will freeze the financial assets of Japanese criminal organizations in the United States; that is, it forbids American people or groups from taking money out of accounts connected to the yakuza.

The executive order did not name any groups in particular, but according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, there were about 80,000 yakuza members in 2008, and their main source of funding is the trafficking of narcotics. They cooperate with other East Asian criminal groups in the weaponry, prostitution, and slave trades and use dummy businesses like construction, real estate, and financial companies as fronts to legally bank their earnings, a form of intellectual crime. They deal drugs and launder money in the United States, as well.

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China to Inspect Train Cars: Move to Deflect Criticism?

July 26, 2011


A car involved in the Wenzhou train crash is transported away from the scene of the accident on the morning of the 26th. It was covered in a sheet and loaded on a large trailer. Photo by Seita Higa.

China to Inspect Train Cars: Move to Deflect Criticism?
Yomiuri Shimbun: 中国、残った車両を調査へ…批判かわす狙い?
Seiga Higa reporting from Zhejiang 11:35 AM July 26

On the 26th, the Chinese government began to transport train cars that were wrecked in the July 23 crash and subsequent fall from the elevated track away from the site.

According to Xinhua News Agency, the government decided to move 5 cars involved in the accident to the closest station, Wenzhou West, for inspection by a government safety commission.

Eyewitnesses said the move began at 5 AM China Time on the 26th. Cars were lifted by train and loaded onto giant trailers. Other cars still being moved, but it is unknown whether the remains of the head cars, which have already been buried, will be re-excavated and transported as well.

Starting on the 24th, the morning after the accident, the government began to destroy train cars involved in the accident and bury them, leading to accusations that it was destroying evidence. The safety commission’s investigation is seen as a move to deflect this criticism.

In other news, Xinhua announced the death count for the accident was 39 on the 25th, then said the number had risen to 40, then amended the number to 39 before dawn on the 26th.

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