Archive for February 2012

Taiwan Railway Orgy Included 17 Year Old Girl, Who Confessed to Sex with at least 7-8 Men

February 29, 2012

I’ll be adding Taiwanese news stories to my rotation from here on to practice C-E translation. As you can see, the top story here is sometimes a little different than it would be in Spain and Japan.

Taiwan Railway Living Room Car
The orgy on a Taiwan Railway Car has sparked Taiwanese people’s interest in “living room cars”, which were converted from US Aid-provided passenger cars to executive suites. These “observatory rooms” are equipped with rotating sofas and large viewing windows. The car featured in this picture has the same design as the one used in this case. Photo provided by National Chiao-Tung University Rail Society.

Taiwan Railway Orgy Included 17 Year Old Girl, Who Confessed to Sex with at least 7-8 Men
China Times: 供述列車淫趴過程 17歲小雨:至少和7、8人做過
Chen Hong-wei reporting from Taipei February 29, 2012

Yesterday, Xiao-yu, the 17-year old leading lady in the orgy in a Taiwan Railway car and the key to the Railway Police investigation, appeared in court with her parents and admitted having sexual relations with at least seven or eight people in the car. She said “I remember the faces of the first five, but I’ve forgotten the rest because I was too tired!” Her mother collapsed when she heard that. She couldn’t believe her daughter had done such a thing.

The police have already questioned group leader and part-time tour guide Tsai Yu-lin, leading lady Xiao-yu, female assistant and 25-year old graduate student Xu, 26-year old team steward and odd-job man Liao, and seven people who participated in the scheme.

The Railway Police indicated that the key figures in the railway orgy have already testified, and they already have a clear and complete picture of the case: these 12 people had debauched sex together on a public train. After the investigation, they will be charged with crimes like offending public morality and breaking the Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act. The 12, who testified separately, will all be brought to justice.

Xiao-yu will be tried as a minor before the Youth Court.

Tsai Yu-lin admitted organizing the orgy, but he said that except for Xiao-yu, everyone paid $800 NTD ($26 USD) to participate. He said the goal of the activity was to make society understand that there are many forms of sex besides one-on-one relations. He wanted to help people with unconventional views “make new connections”. The female graduate student and assistant said she participated in the orgy because it would help her with her thesis.

Xiao-yu had claimed she was 19 years old, but when she spoke with police yesterday she admitted she was under 18. Because Tsai Yu-lin helped arrange sexual relations for her, he broke Article 23 of the Youth Law: “arranging or assisting in procuring sexual relations for someone who is under 18 merits a penalty of 1-7 years in prison.” The two female assistants and the steward Liao will also be considered offenders of this law.

The other seven who admitted to participating in the orgy are men. Their occupations range from technology company engineer to restaurant worker to unskilled laborer. Five admitted having sex with Xiao-yu while wearing condoms. Another said “I didn’t have time to because there were too many people,” so he put on a condom, stood to the side, and masturbated while watching. The seventh said he couldn’t get an erection because he was “too nervous”, but he did fondle Xiao-yu several times.

The police indicated that the seven “Train Lechers” broke the section of the Youth Law regarding sex, lechery, and obscenity, and even if a person only touched Xiao-yu inappropriately, he would still be considered a violator of Article 22: “having sexual relations with a person under 18 merits a prison sentence no longer than one year or a fine of no more than $100,000 NTD ($3300 USD). After questioning, they were all be sent to the Banqiao Police Department for further investigation.

Last night, three more participants told the police they were willing to come forward and testify. The police have already seized Tsai Yu-lin’s checkbook and issued subpoenas to other people who remitted money to him.

The orgy occurred on February 19. Tsai Yu-lin planned it for four weeks. He posted on the BBS (Internet message board) “First-Rate Flower Art and Color Hotel” (whose name could also mean “First-Rate Prostitute Skilled Sex Hotel”) inviting people to participate in a sex party in a Taiwan Railway Car. After that, he interviewed people to choose the participants, found women who were willing to take part, and collected money. That day, 25 people boarded the Chu Kuang Express in Taipei and had an absurd orgy until they arrived in Zhunan 80 minutes later.

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Blind Spot in Anti-Monkey Electrical Fences Identified (The Fenceposts) and Addressed

February 29, 2012

Blind Spot in Anti-Monkey Electrical Fences Identified (The Fenceposts) and Addressed
Yomiuri Shimbun: サル用防護柵に盲点、つかむ柱に電流流したら…
February 5, 2012

Monkeys are plundering crops all over Japan. In response, the Mie Prefecture Agricultural Research Institute in Matsuzaka City has improved upon the monkey-proof electrical fence by electrifying the fenceposts, as well, so that monkeys can no longer climb up and over them.

The research institute noticed a flaw in typical fence design: though electricity ran across the highest horizontal post, it didn’t run through the vertical posts, and the monkeys took advantage of that.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, monkey-inflicted crop damages totaled 8500 tons and ¥1.9 billion ($19.8 million) in 2010, 400 tons and ¥200 million more than the year before. The general response has been to erect fences around fields and orchards, but farmers complained that even though the fences were tall, monkeys found spots that weren’t electrified and used them to cross over. Hence the Research Institute looked into the problem.

Its leader, Naoto Yamabata (42), studied surveillance film and realized that the monkeys were jumping fences more than two meters tall by taking hold of their posts. According to Dr. Yamabata, most fence makers do not electrify posts because they fear electrical contact with the ground will cause a short circuit. Dr. Yamabata solved the problem by wrapping aluminum tape and wire around the posts and running the power through them. Seven farmers in towns like Suzuka, Yokkaichi, and Taiki, in cooperation with local governments and agricultural improvement popularization centers, volunteered to install the new design for half a year’s trial starting last July.

One of these farmers, an 83-year old woman in Nishi-shonaichō, Shizuka, said that “last year, we couldn’t harvest any soybeans, cabbage, or napa, but this year they didn’t eat anything, and we had a harvest.” A Taiki farmer said that he harvested 1.7 tons of napa, and that was 1.7 tons more than he ever could before. The Agricultural Research Institute is planning to extend its trials to monkey-plagued farms in Tsu, Misugi, and Shiga.

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Man Survives Two Months Inside Snowbound Car by Hibernating

February 28, 2012

Hibernation CarA man was rescued from this automobile after he was trapped inside for two months. Umeå, northern Sweden. Photo by Reuters.

Man Survives Two Months Inside Snowbound Car by Hibernating
Yomiuri Shimbun: 雪中の車に2か月…男性、「冬眠」状態で生存
Masahiro Satō reporting from London February 19, 2012

On the 17th, a 45-year old man was rescued from a snowbound car on a forest road near Umeå in northern Sweden after he had been trapped for two months, according to Swedish news reports.

During that time, the man consumed nothing but snow. A doctor told the local paper that his body temperature fell to 31°C (88°F), and he entered a state of hibernation to preserve his strength.

On the 17th, a person driving by caught sight of the car. When he dug the car out, he found a man inside with his lower body wrapped in a sleeping bag.

At the time of the rescue, the man was too weak to speak, but he is now recovering. It is now known that he was in the car on December 19, but it’s still not clear how he was trapped.

85-Year Old Invents Device That Automatically Turns Off Circuit Breaker in Response to Serious Earthquake

February 27, 2012

Inventor Tadao Endo

85-Year Old Invents Device That Automatically Turns Off Circuit Breaker in Response to Serious Earthquake
Yomiuri Shimbun: 地震が起きるとブレーカー遮断…85歳が発明
February 20, 2012

85-year old retiree Tadao Endo of Sengen-chō, Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture has received a patent for a device he recently invented which automatically shuts off a circuit breaker after an earthquake: the tremor makes a lead ball roll downward and fall, tugging a string downward and flipping the switch.

Mr. Endō said, “After serious quakes, people usually don’t have the time to turn off their circuit breakers. If there were such an emergency, this device would decrease the chances of an electrical appliance causing a fire.”

The device has a 20 cm long, slender chain with a 55g leaden ball attached to one end. The other end is affixed to the circuit breaker switch. The leaden ball usually rests atop a normal iron plate, but if a serious earthquake occurred, the ball would roll and fall; it weight would yank the chain and switch off the breaker.

Endō’s design was registered with the Patent Office on January 6.

The most difficult part of Endō’s project was determining how heavy of a leaden ball to use. “If it were too light, it would react even after a light earthquake, but if it were too heavy, it would be useless,” he said. After trial and error, he settled on 55 grams (1.94 ounces) as the perfect weight.

Endō once worked for the national railway, chiefly as a substation chief of safety on the Tokyo-to-Kobe Tōkaidō Line. “At work, as I watched the express trains and night trains come and go day and night, I often thought about what to do if there were a giant earthquake.” He ponders the same question even now. In his home, all the appliances are well-secured, and all the glass is covered with film so it won’t break in the event of an earthquake.

“I’ve heard that after a large earthquake, electricity often goes out for a spell and then comes back, and when that happens, electric heaters and irons that were turned on at the time cause fires. If your circuit breaker automatically turned off, you could feel secure about your home even after you evacuated it.”

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The Chinese Painter Who Knocked Picasso Off His Pedestal

February 26, 2012

Zhang Daqian

A Zhang Daqian painting signed in 1947 that just sold for $87.43 million at an American auction. Photo by Cordon Press.

Zhang Daqian

The Chinese Painter Who Knocked Picasso Off His Pedestal
This week, Zhang Daqian dethroned the Malagan as the best-selling artist in world auctions. Who was this versatile master?
El País: El pintor chino que noqueó a Picasso
Estrella de Diego reporting from Madrid February 25, 2012

He is sometimes compared to Jackson Pollock for his “dot paintings”, and he was influenced by American Abstract Impressionism and its mysterious colors and ambiguous contours. But just observing one his works attentively is enough to convince you of his greatness. Or seeing one of his most famous portrait photos, which captures him as a handsome old man with a long white beard, absorbed in his work, his arm raised and holding a paintbrush, the essential instrument of painting and calligraphy. This photo shows that Zhang Daqian (Chang Dai-chien) (1899-1983), is more a traditional Chinese painter than an expressionist; he is also one of his country’s most outstanding and admired painters.

This week, his name, little known to the Western public, jumped to the front pages of Western newspapers because his auction sales in 2011 were the best in the world, according to Artprice data. It was the first time in 14 years that Picasso wasn’t in first place. Does this tune sound familiar? Three decades ago, the works of the traditional Chinese painter were available for up to a thousand times less money than they are now, but today the artists of this country are among the most sought-after in auction houses. Not long ago, another Chinese painter, Qi Baishi (1864-1957), earned notice after taking third place on the international art market sales chart after Picasso and Warhol.

It wasn’t the first time the three coincided. In 1956, Zhang Daqian visited Picasso in Niza. He arrived without notice, like a youth, although Zhang was Picasso’s contemporary. The Chinese master, fascinated by Picasso’s brushstrokes, learned to his surprise that Picasso was himself influenced by Qi Baishi, then a nonagenarian. The Spanish artist confessed his admiration for someone he considered “the best painter in the Orient.” In his judgment, nothing could equal Chinese art. He never went to China because he didn’t want to have to compare his work with theirs.

Perhaps Picasso didn’t know that, despite his skill in traditional painting, Zhang Daqian was already immersed in Western art, from which he learned a new way of seeing that broke with the order demanded by his country’s traditional painting, which Shen Tsung-Chien explained at the end of the 18th century like so: “in a good, well set-out painting, all the trees and rocks, all the lines of hills and forests have a very defined place, even though objects like these are actually very variable.” After leaving China at the end of the 40s, Zhang Daqian went halfway around the world – to Argentina, São Paulo, and California – perfecting a style that culminated in his “dot paintings”, which characterized his last work.

Zhang Daqian had always distinguished himself with his malleability. He was born in Sichuan Province to a family that encouraged his dedication to painting and calligraphy. In 1917, he moved to Japan with his older brother to learn coloring techniques, and soon after he traveled to Shanghai, where he had the opportunity to work with two known painting and calligraphy specialists of the era. He got in touch with the great classical masters. The tradition was one of the passions of his life, and soon enough his grand collection of masterpieces spanned the Chinese tradition, including hundreds of works of the Tang and Qing dynasties. His collectionism is essential to understanding his great secret sleights of hand: that is, his forgeries.

Perhaps in his case it would be better to call them false authentic paintings, not copies; according to legend, they were so perfect they still occupy places of privilege in many European and North American museums. One can see he had a rare ability: his first copies of Shitao fooled even the experts. We should clarify, though, that copies – and even forgeries – have a very different meaning in China than they would in the West: Chinese think only great painters can be great masters of imitation.

Perhaps because of this, when he was in his late 50s, he began to develop sight problems and started to work on his “dotted paintings”, it wasn’t difficult for him to start seeing things totally differently. These works are based on the beautiful color spots which he later retouched in his outlines, converting the mysterious blues, greens, and browns into majestic mountains. Many see Pollack in these paintings, although Zhang Daqian insisted on naming the classical painter Wang Mo as his inspiration. Be that as it may, these “dot paintings” are unbeatably healthy on the art market. And they are also influencing new generations, who know that in his work, as Shitao said, “the ink, in filling the brush, fills the soul; the brush, in using the ink, fills the spirit.”

Fossils of Turtle Species that Coexisted with Dinosaurs Discovered

February 25, 2012

Polysternon IsonaeReconstruction of the turtle species Polysternon Isonae based on fossilized remains recovered in Isona, Spain. Photo by Óscar Sansidro.

Fossils of Turtle Species that Coexisted with Dinosaurs Discovered
The Polysternon Isonae was half a meter long and lived in fresh water
El País: Hallan los restos fósiles de una tortuga que convivió con los dinosaurios
Lluís Visa reporting from Lleida, Catalonia, Spain February 24, 2012

At a excavation site in Isona i Conca Dellà (Pallars Jussà), a team of Catalonian paleontologists discovered the fossilized remains of a new turtle species that coexisted with dinosaurs and was extinguished along with them, unlike other chelonian species.

This turtle, christened the Polysternon Isonae, was half a meter long and lived in fresh water 65 million years ago, when the elevated mountains that now contain the fossils were still an enormous coastal plain open to the Atlantic Ocean, with a much warmer tropical climate and abundant vegetation, including palm trees.

This territory was not only inhabited by dinosaurs but also by crocodiles, fish, and other animal species whose fossilized remains are coming to light thanks to years of excavation campaigns. The Tremp basin is one of the zones with the greatest concentrations of fossils; it has yielded dozens of deposits with the bones, footprints, and eggs of the last dinosaurs to walk the earth.

The turtles were an important element of these ecosystems; their fossilized remains are abundant in these deposits in the Pyrenees and basically consist of carapace shells, either isolated or in small groupings that help teach about the morphology and size of this animal. That said, whole shells and inner skeletons of the species are infrequently discovered.

The fairly complete remains found in the Torrebilles Ravine during excavation campaigns in 2008 and 2009 made descriptions of this new species of turtle possible. Two other species of the genus Polysternon have been discovered, the provinciale atlanticum, and mechinorum is a possible third. These turtles lived in an area that now corresponds with southern France and the Iberian Peninsula. They were adapted to swimming and lived in fresh water and the deep waters of rivers and lakes. The samples discovered until now indicate the beasts had oval shells and were 50 cm long and 40 cm wide.

Polysternon Isonae FossilsThe fossilized remains of the turtle.  Picture courtesy of the journal Cretaceous Research.

Primitive Horses Shrank Because of Global Warming

February 24, 2012

Modern and Prehistoric Horses
Illustration of a modern 500 kilogram horse face to face with a Sifrhippus sandrae, which lived 55 million years ago and was the size of a small cat, by Danielle Byerley, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Primitive Horses Shrank Because of Global Warming
55 million years ago, the ancestors of horses shrunk to the size of modern house cats
They grew in side when planetary temperature cooled

El País: Los caballos primitivos encogieron por el calor
Alicia Rivera reporting from Madrid February 23, 2012

More heat means smaller size, and lower temperatures mean more bulk. Some 55 million years ago, primitive horses followed this rule of thumb to evolve and adapt to the conditions of their environment, to the point that the Sifrhippus, the oldest ancestor of the horse known to the fossil registry, shrank to the size of a house cat (and less than 4 kg of weight) during a pronounced planetary warming phase. Then, when the temperature dropped again, it got bigger. The interesting thing about the investigation into this subject by American scientists is not only the variation in size of those remote horses but also its clear association with warming (up to five degrees centigrade) and cooling. Ross Record and his colleagues have explained this in the journal Science.

The Sifrhippus emerged in North American forests and weighed something less than six kilos. But in the climatic period called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, during which the earth’s temperature rose up to five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit), this animal shrank in size by 30%. This hot interval was 55 million years ago and 17,500 years long. When the climate cooled, the primitive horse grew in size and gained weight by up to 75%, reaching seven kilos.

This correlation between size and temperature, called Bergmann’s Law, has been observed in many mammals, but it wasn’t clear if animals’ tendency to be more corpulent in cold climates and smaller in hot ones was linked to the temperature (large animals conserve body heat better than small ones) or other environmental factors like the availability of food.

Secord (University of Nebraska) and his colleagues have found an answer in the fossils, specifically horse teeth found in the state of Wyoming, whose size and chemical compositions (like oxygen and hydrogen isotope counts) give clues about the conditions of the animals’ environment.

Jonathan Bloch (Florida Museum of Natural History), coauthor of the research, said that another researcher, Stephen Chester, then a pre-doctoral student, entrusted himself with the task of measuring these horse teeth, and the data he presented was surprising: “It signaled that the first horses in the series were much larger than the later ones. We thought something was wrong, but no, that was correct, and the pattern was even clearer when we accumulated more fossils.” The surprise was even greater, Bloch continued, when Secord ran geochemical analyses of the oxygen isotopes in the teeth, and the data curve showed “exactly the same pattern the teeth’s size did.” Altogether, they measured the teeth of 44 horses and chemically analyzed fossils from 150 mammals.

For the first time, we were able to go back tens of millions of years and demonstrate that temperature was the essential cause of the change in body size of this species of horse,” concluded Bloch in a statement from the University of Nebraska. The investigation began seven years ago. They have ruled out the idea that the fundamental cause was quantity of food, since during that warm fluctuation, the climate seemed to be more humid and thus more productive, and yet the horses still shrunk.

Felisa A. Smith, a specialist at the University of New Mexico, wrote in Science that the tendency toward dwarfism has been verified for many animals which lived during that heating period 55 million years ago, but there wasn’t a quantitative evaluation of how size was influenced throughout the evolution of these animals’ bodies.”

Though the temporal divide is more than 50 million years wide, one can’t avoid looking for parallels between current climate change and the effect of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Secord and his colleagues didn’t evade the subject, either: “These discoveries could be important to understanding mammals’ evolutionary response to future global warming,” he wrote in the scientific journal. They recalled that climatologists’ projections indicated that the average temperature of the earth could rise four degrees (Celsius) in this century, not far from the five degrees of that heating phase.

But there is a big difference, they say: the velocity of the change. During that thermal maximum, the 5-degree heating took between 10,000 and 20,000 years, while now we are speaking of a century or two. “So there’s a big difference in scale, and the question is if we would see the same kind of response, if the animals would be capable of readjusting their physical size in two centuries,” Secord commented. It’s not clear how animals would quickly react to warming, Smith points out, going on to say that we must be cautious extrapolating what happened in the past to what is happening today, since the average temperature then was much higher than it is now.

Superior Mandibles of Sifrhippus and Modern Horse
Scientist Jonathan Block shows the upper jaw of a Sifrhippus from 55 million years ago. Photo courtesy of Kristen Grace and the Florida Museum of Natural History.