Saturday, May 30, 2009

Japanese car makers: No cash to host race?

Toyota "may" stop hosting the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix auto race in the face of the auto industry depression, according to today's edition of the Japan Times. Toyota is considering the move as a way to reduce costs as it expects to fall deep into the red in fiscal 2009 for the second straight year, they said. The annual Formula One race in Japan is held alternately between Fuji International Speedway and Suzuka International Racing Course.

Toyota purchased Fuji International Speedway Co. in 2000 and hosted the grand prix on Fuji speedway in 2007 after winning the right by renovating the race course at a cost of ¥20 billion. The Suzuka circuit, affiliated with Honda Motor Co., is the venue for this year's Japanese grand prix.

If Toyota decides to give up the 2010 grand prix, the Suzuka circuit may host it, the Japan Times writes. Toyota will continue participating in Formula One racing itself.

Let's see in October.

Friday, May 29, 2009

These #"@!??*$# Spams made in Hong-Kong

"You have probably seen an increase in the amount of "junk mail" which shows up in your email box, or on your favorite newsgroup. The activities of a small number of people are becoming a bigger problem for the Internet." This is the message of one company who deals with it... and sells systems to fight spam... Free trial, software anti-spam etc. 

Spam jams the web and it is a major problem to the information highways (Retro) Some are getting mad as this ad shows

How many of those did you get since yesterday?

One of the target is the US made in spams, the other target is China: 

And medias in China are proud about it: "They have reported that Hong Kong earned the highest email spam honour of any country or region in the world, in a report published by computing insecurity firm Symantec. The latest Messagelabs Intelligence Report for May 2009 revealed that the volume of spam increased 5.1 per cent over the previous month to 90.4 per cent worldwide! (Hong Kong email spam levels grew by 2.4 per cent in May to reach 92.3 per cent, according to the report.) In comparison, spam levels were 86.6 per cent in the US and 90.3 per cent in the UK. The report also said that some form of computer virus infected one in every 198.3 emails throughout China overall."

Paul Wood of Symantec indicated that 2009 has seen Captcha-breaking, social networking spam and webmail spam techniques combined. "Today, the bad guys are using the three together as a triple threat to heighten the effectiveness of their spamming". (News link: click the title)

Report, if you think it's worth, to:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yokohama 150th Anniversary

150 years ago, Yokohama was a fishing village with 100 households facing a sandy beach with muddy lands and lots of mosquitoes. Basically a not healthy location. The shogunate chose the desolate site to open a foreign trading port precisely to keep Western merchants from Japanese and their daily business.

On July 29, 1858, Japan and the United States of America signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Similar treaties were later signed with Russia, the Netherlands, Britain and France. These treaties opened the ports of Yokohama, Hakodate, Niigata, Kobe, and Nagasaki to the outside world. The opening of these ports introduced foreign cultures to Japan and helped bring about the modernization of Japan. 

With the arrival of Commodore Perry and his Black Ships in 1853, Japan opened its doors to the world. The following year, Perry and the Edo Shogunate signed the Kanagawa Treaty and Japan officially became an open country. In 1858 the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, allowing for the Port of Yokohama to open in 1859. 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama. 

A pioneering spirit existed in Yokohama as people from all around Japan and the world moved to the port city. Yokohama was now an important intercultural base that connected Japan to the rest of the world and a symbol of the new and modern Japan. These Pioneers created a unique and international culture while achieving success in various fields. It is no exaggeration to say that the modernization of Japan began with the Port Opening of Yokohama. (Cityhall information)

Today Yokohama has a population of 3.64 million people. Yokohama would like to tell the world that on this 150th Anniversary, the future of Yokohama is filled with hope and that we want to share our dream of the future with the world. This Commemorative Ceremony is to honor the Pioneers who have established the base for today’s prosperity. We will take this opportunity to celebrate this turning point of Japanese history and develop further into the future. (Cityhall information)

Observing the 150th anniversary of the port's opening, Yokohama organizes several activities and today is the first day. Among many beauties of the harbor town, the Yamashita park, the modern Minato-Mirai, and the endless stroll in the town designed with  "un je ne sais quoi d'esprit français." 

Yokohama extended relations with several  sister cities such as Bombay, San Diego, Shanghai, Vancouver and Lyon, France since 1959. The Lyonnais, led by Mayor Gérard Collomb well-known for his fruitful alliance's alchemy from food business to high-technology, are to come to celebrate this 50th anniversary with their Japanese counterparts , end of this month.

One of the other numerous assets of the town is... its little China town, and the beautiful sea-view from Yamate Hill with its old houses from the 19th century and an old cemetery for foreigners. Some quiet luxurious properties for rich expatriates founded a new architectural style. A "very chic" area with posh houses and elite schools such as the Saint-Maur International and French school. Yokohama also is a city with a huge suburb, golf courses, welcoming Kanagawa prefecture residents and Tokyo workers at lower cost. Yokohama certainly is of the most pleasant harbor town in Japan with Nagasaki, Kobe or Fukuoka.

The Cuauhtemoc, a training ship of the Mexican Navy enters Yokohama harbor

Superb ship and view but I am not sure that it is the best gesture of friendship these days. Naturally, PR agents may voice their opinions. Still a doubt lingers in my mind. Commemorating the anniversary of the beginning of Japanese-Mexican relations, a 1,800-ton tall ship from the Mexican Navy called at Yokohama port yesterday. The training vessel Cuauhtemoc initially planned to visit the port of Osaka, but the plan was canceled after the swine flu epidemic hit Osaka and surrounding areas, sickening hundreds of residents. The swine flu outbreak started in Mexico in mid-March; the Cuauhtemoc left Mexico in February and all 264 of its crew members are in good health, quarantine officials at Yokohama port said.

Unfortunately, most of the events of this 150 anniversary are  in Japanese languages, a minor flop when one celebrates internationalization, desho? (Click the title to access the festivities agenda)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

France's first military base in the Gulf! Rafales Fighters in the pact

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Emirati Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahayan inaugurate France's first military base in the Gulf on May 26, 2009 in the United Arab Emirates' capital Abu Dhabi. Sarkozy, on the second day of a visit to the oil-rich Gulf state, declared that Paris plans to submit proposals to world leaders at the G8 summit in July to try to end oil price volatility. France's so-called "Peace Camp" in Abu Dhabi will host up to 500 troops stationed in three sites on the banks of the strategic Strait of Hormuz just across from Iran: a navy and logistical base, a desert air base with three fighter planes and a training camp. France has a handful of military bases mainly in Africa including its largest in Djibouti, which occupies a strategic position on the Gulf of Aden.

France is a leading military supplier to the UAE, and the two countries are linked by a 1995 defense pact under which their armed forces chiefs meet once a year and their forces conduct around 25 joint military maneuvers per year. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan reported progress in talks on the possible purchase of French Rafale warplanes, a deal that could be worth as much as six to eight billion euros (eight to 11 billion dollars). "It was discussed... I can say there has been positive progress on this issue," France hopes the UAE can be persuaded to replace its fleet of French Mirage 2000 combat planes with 60 new multi-role Rafale jets.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bellicose North Korea


The equivalent power of Nagasaki nuclear bomb! This is the latest test of bellicose North Korean nuclear scientists, after the quasi failure of the last rocket launch, under the thumbs of Pyongyang's generals, themselves under the nose of the Beijing leaders. Is Beijing going to advise the North junta to adopt an other type of attitude, a more conciliative behavior in line with the expectation of a denuclearization of rogue regimes? China does not broker any peace on the Korean Peninsula so far. China, in spite of her historical tie with the old guard of Pyongyang, is told to condemn such nuclear test. But what sort of action would the China leadership take to influence North Korea to "opt out" the nuclear option? 

Also to whom is the nuclear test aimed at? Is there any struggle coming from the military hard-liners at the top of the Pyongyang regime, probably holding Kim Jong-il 's hand, which is the motive of such radicalization of the DPRK (North Korea)? Is the test aimed at China? I have not yet read any conclusive opinions but it is the viwpoint of a bunch of experts in East Asia that this test is not just running an old movie. The bomb is real, the bomb is a threat. Time to the Pyongyangers to open up and to the nations involved in the 6 party talks to set an honorable end to such crisis. By the way, where is the European Union in this 6 party talks and if EU has her two cents to say in Afghanistan why not in the terrible risks and blackmails motioned by North Korea Stalinian dictatorship? 

Watching pictures of reporters who could set a foot in DPRK and noticing the immense poverty and unhappiness of the people, soldiers, children and families abused and ill treated, (reminder of Burma or Khmer Rouge ordeals and murders that I reported) there is a human tragedy up there in DPRK. There is an urgent need to confront and address with discussions not with bombs, kidnappings, and miserable life. 

Democratic nations cannot confront two aggressions and conflicts in the same time and let Pyongyang play the errant predatory card ,"with its million-strong army, it (DPRK) still has the capacity to inflict horrific damage on any invading force", the Independent writes today. 

Seismologist report of the Kilju, North Korea, underground nuclear test 

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea reports: underground nuclear bomb tested on Monday!


North Korea said it had successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday, first comments mention a 10 kilotons bomb? If confirmed, much bigger than last time. Second test in the last 3 years after October 2006, KCNA agency reports. The agency says Monday's test was "aimed at strengthening its [North Korea's] self-defense nuclear deterrent in every way". The news confirms earlier reports by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

South Korea's president is reported to have convened an emergency security meeting and Japan is setting up a task force in the prime minister's office. The KCNA report gave no details of the location of the test. South Korean officials said a strong seismic tremor, 4.7, was detected in the north-eastern part of the communist state. A tremor was detected around the northeastern town of Kilju, (40.9642 latitude 129.328 longitude) near where the first test was conducted in October 2006.

Pyongyang already stated it wanted to be recognized as a nuclear power. But Pyongyang knows its use would be suicidal! North Korea is known, although being years away from advance technology, to have missiles but not confirmed technology for being capable of carrying nuclear ballistic missiles on long range such as Asia or Europe or America. Some Asian stocks, Shanghai, Seoul, Hong-Kong, declined after nuclear test.

This photo taken on October 16, 2006 and made available on October 24 by South Korea's Arirang 2 satellite shows a three-dimensional description of North Korea's suspected nuclear test site in P'unggye-yok Kilju county, North Korea. (Arirang view)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

H1N1 Flu: the Map and the Threat

[ ✍✍✍ Update: swine flu infections in Japan rose to 342 on Sunday, as four more people, including a 19-year-old man in Toyono, Osaka Prefecture, and an 18-year-old male high school student in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, were confirmed as having the new H1N1 virus.]

Japanese medias decided to change news navigation cape and hinder informations and say no more about the H1N1. In this way, they are lowering to the minimum the fear about the flu, and minimize the level of infection of the pandemic. Although it is known that the virus is sneaky and vicious. I am told that it is now becoming quite difficult to trust the official news (governmental NHK), the commercial TV channels, some of the print press and the Japanese wire agencies about how the H1N1 virus spreads in the Japanese archipelago and at what pace.

"This is an other case of official news guideline that we owe to the Kisha Club system, even if the risk is less or high", an experienced colleague told at my Tokyo based Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Whatever people say. Here we are with the WHO (OMS) latest: As of 06:00 GMT, 23 May 2009, 43 countries have officially reported 12 022 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, including 86 deaths.

Confirmed domestic swine flu cases hit 338 Saturday evening in seven prefectures, although most were in Hyogo and Osaka. The other prefectures are Shiga and Kyoto in Kansai, and Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa in Kanto.

Quotes: "The new Saitama case involved a 29-year-old man who caught it from a friend who tested positive Friday, prefectural officials said early Saturday. The two men toured Osaka and Kyoto from Sunday to Tuesday, taking in a baseball game at Kyocera Dome and sightseeing spots in the ancient capital, before flying back to Haneda airport in Tokyo on All Nippon Airways flight No. 40 from Itami. Both got fevers Friday morning, Saitama officials said. The man, who works as a security guard in Tokyo, also said he rode in the same car with a colleague in his 60s on Thursday but that the colleague has not developed any flu symptoms, the officials said. In central Tokyo, the total stayed at three, with the latest case, a 25-year-old man from Mitaka who was in Osaka from May 14 to Wednesday, testing positive for the new flu on Friday. The man said he watched standup comedy acts and went to Universal Studios Japan during the one-week stay."

The government on Friday stated it downshifted its response to H1N1 influenza, locally called "shingata infuruenza" (new-type influenza), after realizing the domestic outbreak was an apparently milder form of the contagion that has been blamed for killing dozens of people in Mexico.

Japan's previous policy, amended in February, was geared to address the more virulent H5N1 avian flu, and called for sweeping measures to be taken in all affected areas. "But the new flu strain, H1N1 influenza A, is more or less localized."

The question "Are we ready or not?" is no longer relevant because the pandemic threat is already out nearly everywhere.

In Indonesia, a Virologist from Udayana University, Gusti Ngurah Mahardhika, who has long been advocating non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus in Bali, says "although the influenza A (H1N1) is now a low pathogenic virus that has a relatively low probability of fatality, less than 10 percent, it does not mean the world can rest on its laurels."

"Nowadays, pandemics should not be seen as situations where people drop and die like flies. But the virus is easily transmitted, and if you just look at how many people can potentially catch it, you can imagine what kind of effect it will have on the economic and SOCIAL ORDER."