Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 11? Defeat of Kan, Holland or Spain?

"On Sunday, a respectable share of Japan's 104 million voters will walk to their local elementary schools or public meeting halls to cast their ballots in the country's House of Councillors election. Yet opinion polls show that with just a day to go, nearly a third of these potential voters have yet to decide who they’ll be voting for.

Such uncertainty so close to an election would be troubling if it reflected a volatile national character or even an array of choices so dispiriting that many voters have difficulty caring. However, the failure of 3 out of 10 Japanese voters to have made up their minds is down to one simple fact-the election has no meaning, or at least its meaning has changed so many times over the past few months and weeks that a reasonable person could well be asking what they’re actually voting for."

Following a plunge in support for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan ahead of the July 11 House of Councillors election, the possibility that the ruling parties will not be able to secure a majority in the house has arisen, prompting parties to maneuver to secure coalition partners.

What exactly does Japan want?

"Kan and other officials from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) have been casting amorous glances at New Komeito and Your Party as possible coalition partners. Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party (PNP), a ruling coalition member, also has his eyes on New Komeito as well as the New Renaissance Party.

With a tough election ahead, DPJ politicians close to former party Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa have suggested that Kan, who has referred to an increase in consumption tax, should be held responsible if the party fails to obtain 50 seats in the election. It is believed that Kan has had to make early moves to pick possible coalition partners to counter this situation and avoid the possibility of a "twisted" Diet in which the opposition controls the upper house while the ruling parties maintain control of the House of Representatives."

"The DPJ's current coalition partner opposes raising the 5 percent sales tax any time soon, as do some potential allies. Other opposition parties agree a hike is inevitable but would probably be reluctant to help out the rival DPJ, which has not yet mapped out any detailed tax reform proposals. The 63-year-old Kan has called for non-partisan talks on tax reform and said any rise in the 5 percent sales tax would take at least two to three years to implement.

He is also touting a "Third Way" economic strategy that would use tax revenues to target growth areas such as healthcare and the environment, although many economist are dubious. The leaders of two potential partners, the pro-reform Your Party and New Komeito, which partnered with the Liberal Democratic Party until its ouster last year, have rejected the idea of an alliance with the DPJ. Analysts say they might change their tune later, but would drive hard bargains if the Democrats fare badly."

The July 11 parliamentary elections are widely considered as a referendum on the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's 10 months in power since defeating the long-ruling conservatives and the prime minister Kan is loosing support. Despite assuming power in June with a public support rating of over 65 percent, the DPJ administration has lost nearly a third of that after only a month in power, according to the latest polls. Observers speculate the swift slide was influenced by Kan's suggestion that the consumption tax should be raised to 10 percent to reduce the public debt. The latest poll credits the current cabinet with less than 45%.

Question is: should the DPJ fares poorly in the election, it is almost certain that Kan's power on the government will loose authority and will deepen within the ruling party ahead of the DPJ presidential election in September.

University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies graduate, professor of International Relations at TUJ in Tokyo, Dr. Phil Deans sees the choice of the electorate as rather simple: ‘‘Japan like many countries is facing severe economic problems. It’s spending too much and not raising enough in tax. So the ruling party has gone into this campaign with the unusual promise of increasing consumption tax, which of course will never make them popular."

Kan is the Japan’s fifth leader in three years, only replaced his predecessor last month after a rift between the DPJ led government and the US Obama administration on the issue of relocation of Marine Corps units on a resort island north of the Okinawa main island.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Diplomat, agencies, Reporter's notes

Friday, July 09, 2010

New Naicho chief: Japan's changing face of Intelligence

Hideshi Mitani, a North Korea counter-intelligence specialist, was the chief of the Japanese prime minister's intelligence agency, Cabinet Research Office, or known as the "Naicho", since appointed by ex Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. Contrary to uses in the intelligence circles, while being replaced, Mitani-san will stay at the Kantei in charge of the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea secret services agents from the mid-70s' to the 80s'. Director of Cabinet Intelligence Hideshi Mitani is replaced by Shinichi Uematsu. In former assignments Shinichi Uematsu was in charge of Osaka prefectural police headquarters and a specialist of Japanese Government procurements.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Asteroids and Comets Spark Scientists' Curiosity

"The study of comets and asteroids represent a sample of Solar System material at different stages of evolution, key to understand the origin of our own planet and of our planetary neighborhood" says the European Space Agency

Rosetta's encounter with asteroid Lutetia on 10th July 2010 18:00 – 23:00 CEST

A billion-euro (1.25-billion-dollar) European spacecraft will get up close and personal with an asteroid this Saturday as the probe blasts through the Solar System on its way to rendezvous with a comet. The flyby comes halfway in the extraordinary tale of the European Space Agency's Rosetta, launched in 2004 on a 12-year, 7.1-billion-kilometre (4.4-billion-mile) mission. One of the biggest gambles in the history of space exploration, the unmanned explorer is designed to meet up in 2014 with Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko 675 million kms (422 million miles) from home.

Hayabusa of JAXA


These objects could hit the Earth hard and cause damage according to their size and this is to know what a science fiction earth disaster risk would be that governments and space agencies, ESA, JAXA launched various space research projects to investigate the asteroids.

Hayabusa, formerly known as MUSES-C for Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft C, was launched on 9 May 2003 for a rendez-vous with asteroid Itokawa in mid-September 2005. After arriving at Itokawa, Hayabusa studied the asteroid's shape, spin, topography, colour, composition, density, and history. In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid. It return the Earth June 13rd 2010 with celestial samples.

"Material found in the Hayabusa spacecraft's sample collection compartments could offer insight into the creation and makeup of the solar system. The capsule landed successfully in the Australian Outback last month after a seven-year, 4-billion mile (6-billion kilometer) journey despite a series of technical glitches that raised worries that the mission could fail. Hayabusa, launched in 2003, reached an asteroid called Itokawa in 2005. After taking photos from all angles of the 1,640-foot (500-meter) -long asteroid, Hayabusa landed on it twice in November 2005. The spacecraft then limped home after developing a fuel leak and losing contact with Earth for seven weeks. It was the first spacecraft ever to successfully land on an asteroid and then return home." (Sources: Agencies)

There is a high probability that some dust was trapped in the sampling chamber during contact with the asteroid, so the chamber was sealed, and the spacecraft returned to Earth on 13 June 2010.

"Months of research are necessary to determine if the dust came from the asteroid or was picked up by Hayabusa on its return"
Professor Junichiro Kawaguchi

Japanese scientists announced that at least two tiny particles, no bigger than 1/100th of a millimeter, have been found which they hope are of extraterrestrial origin, Japanese news stated. The particles are only visible by microscope, but if from the asteroid could still yield important data on the universe.

The Yomiuri reported that, in actuality, more than ten particles large enough to be visible to the eye have been discovered while JAXA stated to reporters that they hope to have all found particles under go analysis by the end of September, with results coming back by the end of the year. Tiny particles inside the capsule of the Hayabusa spacecraft that made the world's first round-trip mission to an asteroid. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has found several dozen additional particles in a container inside a tiny capsule that the Hayabusa unmanned space probe released in June after a seven-year round-trip to the asteroid Itokawa.

The announcement made on Wednesday at a press conference at Foreign Press center, Japan, came after JAXA reported Monday that two particles measuring about 0.01 mm in diameter were found in the container for Itokawa surface samples. The agency said the newly discovered particles are several thousandths of a millimeter in diameter and it will analyze them to see if they are from the asteroid, which is about 300 million km from Earth.

The celestial particles found in the sample container of the Hayabusa space probe

Asteroids are thought to be celestial bodies that preserve information from the time of the Solar System's formation. If scientists collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth to carry out precise research on it, we can gain some precious clues to understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

Hayabusa mission

Bringing back a sample from a celestial body in the Solar System is called "Sample Return." "HAYABUSA" as a probe is to verify the practicality of acquired technology developed to archive future full-scale "sample return missions." "HAYABUSA' was launched aboard the M-V Launch Vehicle on May 9,2003. It was accelerated by a swing-by of the Earth in May 2004 and reached its target Asteroid Itokawa on September 12,2005, after traveling about 2 billion kilometers. in September and October that year, "HAYABUSA" completed the most remote-sensing and measurement of the geometry of Itokawa and made two landings in November to collect a sample from Itakawa. Through scientific observations performed during "HAYABUSA's" stay on Itokawa various knowledge was obtained including on its gravity and surface condition.

At 15:22 on May 19. 2004 (JST), HAYABUSA approached most closely to the earth at an altitude of 3,700 km over the Eastern Pacific Ocean and performed the powered swing-by by accelerating itself with ion engines. At that time, three cameras (one telecamera and two wide-angle cameras) and one near-infrared spectrometer, which were designed to be used for navigation and scientific observations, photographed the Moon and Earth, while simultaneously performing calibration and performance evaluation of the instruments. In September 2005, the explorer arrived at the asteroid Itokawa about 300 million km away from the earth. In November 2005, it successfully landed on Itokawa. In April 2007, HAYABUSA started full cruising operation to return to earth.


Scientific observations were made over the asteroid Itokawa from mid-September through end-November 2005. Four observation instruments from altitudes of 20km to 3km observed Itokawa’s shape, terrain, surface altitude distribution, reflectance (spectrum), mineral composition, gravity, major element composition, etc. The observations provided new information to study the asteroid formation process, important guidelines for future explorations of all types of asteroids.

Fascinating film of the Hayabusa Space Probe Ship Re-entry (HD). Hayabusa space capsule after a seven-year, billion-mile journey to the asteroid Itokawa seen here back to Earth

Last but not least: An asteroid to eclipse a star tonight!

Tonight, the European Space Agency reports that during Thursday-Friday night, a star visible to the naked eye, Delta Ophiuchi (the fourth brightest star in the constellation Ophiuchi), will be occulted by asteroid Roma, which is about 50 km across. It is reported that this asteroid eclipse will be the only one in this century that will be visible with the naked eye.

It would be much similar to a solar eclipse where the asteroids, rocky or metallic objects around the sun which were left over while the formation of the solar system. It would last just for few seconds as the asteroids move relatively fast and could be seen in central Europe, Spain... and the Canary Islands.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The DNA of the journalist: Regulating the use of information?

What's left of the independence of journalism?

"There are no longer external Omega points or any antagonistic means available in order to analyze the world; there is nothing more than a fascinated adhesion."
Jean Baudrillard, philosopher

After moderating numerous press conferences as a director of the Foreign Correspondents' club of Japan, and co-chairing its committee on press freedom, I have had several thoughts about the work of journalist and where it is heading to in Japan. As a French journalist based in Asia for the last 20 years, I can see we'll soon have more difficulties to access to free information and to a contradictory one. Less investigation, less verification, less help to access to information. The consequence is not only dark for media and our audiences, but also, ironically, for all of those who need to send their message.

Is it a pitiful trend in Asia only? No. Recently I was alarmed reading an article of the newspaper Le Monde, while this renown evening daily newspaper is heading towards a new chapter with a new owner, its role as a reference appears as long gone away. While it might be a due to a faulty management, it is also the lack of responsibility and visions of the journalists themselves. Some sense of alarm for the whole profession. Quotes: " The newspaper Le Monde may be placed under the supervision of financial supporters of short-term and manipulation of information. The lock information will thus be strengthened by the world of finance and some political mercenaries... more of their freedom at the expense of ours." Management or reporters to blame?

Time will say but what is happening here in Asia is not different except that Japanese newspapers start to enter into a fragile equilibrium, super sales of dailies will rarefy, quality will suffer. It started. Not always because of cash, it's also linked to inner causes, the reporters cruising in dangerous waters with politics and finance "faux-amis".

Moderator of a press event in Tokyo, speaker Wuer Kaixi,
Tiananmen student leader. June 7th, 2010

Indeed if we look at some of the historic events such as the 1989 demonstrations for democratization on Tiananmen, events I anticipated while I worked in Beijing prior to 89 and followed after while, one wonders: Has the press told the truth and the whole truth then? Not necessarily if we counter examine what the student at that time Wuer Kaixi told me recently while visiting Japan. No again if we hear Chinese or Japanese witnesses, citizens, officials telling their share of the truth, or by reading post-event, some of the security offices reports. Some sounds may be unheard of except by fragment. One of the most vocal Asia watcher, Professor Gregory Clark has this to say about media and this Tiananmen square protests ' reports. Quotes:

"Western media play along in the disinformation game"
an Op-Ed by Gregory Clark in the Japan Times

"Are they being manipulated by governments? Or, are they just plain lazy, happy to go along with what everyone else is saying and what readers want to believe without wanting to look too closely into relevant background? I refer to the way the Western media, both lately and in the past, have accepted blatant and often dangerous news distortions. The No. 1 distortion remains the so-called massacre at Tiananmen Square. On the 21st anniversary of that alleged event earlier this month, the main news agencies still managed to preserve the fiction of Chinese troops marching into Beijing's iconic square and shooting down innocent students in the hundreds, if not thousands. This, despite all the reliable eyewitness reports, available on Google, that say almost nothing occurred in the square on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

What happened was quite different: There was wild shooting on roads leading to the square by soldiers retaliating for vicious firebomb attacks by angry citizens on units sent to remove protesting students who had been allowed to occupy the square for weeks while regime moderates tried vainly to negotiate the reforms the students wanted. Many died as a result, including soldiers incinerated in their trucks and other vehicles.

But never mind the facts. The fantasy story makes for much better reading. It also gave the European nations an excuse to blacklist China for arms sales and even for the riot control equipment that might have prevented the mayhem. A detailed 1998 study in the Columbia Journalism Review titled "Reporting the Myth of Tiananmen, and the Price of a Passive Press," by Jay Mathews, Washington Post former bureau chief in Beijing ( traces the massacre myth to a front-page story in Hong Kong that was flashed quickly around the world as fact by news agencies. My not uninformed guess says it was probably planted by either Western or Taiwanese intelligence agencies. The alleged author has never been found.

Gregory Clark Op-Ed here

On Sunday, July 4, 2010 an answer to Gregory Clark "Japan's media have long way to go" writes Cliff M. Shih. Quotes:

"Regarding Gregory Clark's June 25 article, "Western media play along in the disinformation game": The Japanese media is exactly like the Western media in this sense. The Japanese media focus only on the things they feel their general public "should hear" in this already information-isolated nation. The purpose of this is none other than to keep the Japanese people unified at least in believing that "since other countries are doing bad, and they are not as good as us, Japan must be the best country in the world!"

Certainly we have seen this type of brainwashing throughout the world and in history. The American media, for example, love to swing the story of the war on terror to enable the nation to focus on a common enemy, for the sake of unity. It is a bit disturbing to see how, in the 21st century, this still exists in a country like Japan, which has portrayed itself as advanced and moving forward with every step. In fact, Japan is the furthest behind with respect to its media."

The whole paper
Gregory Clark Internet page


Information, in its most restricted technical sense, is an ordered sequence of symbols. As a concept, however, information has many meanings. Moreover, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, and representation. The English word was apparently derived from the Latin accusative form (informationem) of the nominative (informatio): this noun is in its turn derived from the verb "informare" (to inform) in the sense of "to give form to the mind", "to discipline", "instruct", "teach": "Men so wise should go and inform their kings." (1330) Inform itself comes (via French) from the Latin verb informare, to give form to, to form an idea of. Furthermore, Latin itself already contained the word informatio meaning concept or idea, but the extent to which this may have influenced the development of the word information in English is not clear. The ancient Greek word for form was μορφή (morphe; confer morph) and also εἶδος (eidos) "kind, idea, shape, set", the latter word was famously used in a technical philosophical sense by Plato (and later Aristotle) to denote the ideal identity or essence of something (see Theory of forms). "Eidos" can also be associated with thought, proposition or even concept." Sources Wikipedia & L. Floridi.

References: L. Floridi, "Information - A Very Short Introduction" (Oxford University Press 978-0-19-955137-8 25 February 2010) We live an information-soaked existence - information pours into our lives through television, radio, books, and of course, the Internet. Some say we suffer from 'infoglut'. But what is information? The concept of 'information' is a profound one, rooted in mathematics, central to whole branches of science, yet with implications on every aspect of our everyday lives: DNA provides the information to create us; we learn through the information fed to us; we relate to each other through information transfer - gossip, lectures, reading. Information is not only a mathematically powerful concept, but its critical role in society raises wider ethical issues: who owns information? Who controls its dissemination? Who has access to information? Luciano Floridi, a philosopher of information, cuts across many subjects, from a brief look at the mathematical roots of information - its definition and measurement in 'bits'- to its role in genetics (we are information), and its social meaning and value. He ends by considering the ethics of information, including issues of ownership, privacy, and accessibility; copyright and open source.

*NB: Jean Baudrillard quoted in Le Nouvel Observateur July 2004.