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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekend randomness: Tokyo's Oldest Man

Update: A story regarding the whereabouts of Tokyo's oldest woman has come about it the past week. Catch up at the link.

The current world life expectancy average is 67.5 years with the Japanese being the most long lived population in the world with average life expectancy of 82.6 years. This contrasts with the average in Swaziland of just 39.6 years. This weekends random news comes from Tokyo, a thriving metropolis of nearly 14,000,000 people.

 So in such a long lived population there is a lot of interest in just who is the most aged resident in the city. Up until this week the record was held by one Sogen Kato a man of 111 years. The record for world's oldest man is held by another Japanese person Tamoji Tanabe in the Southern City of Miyakonojo. He is also 111 years.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 6

In this, part 6 of my Studio Ghibli Feature we will be crossing into the 21st century and there is no finer way to get there than weith the critically lauded Spirited Away. But first let us take a look at one of the Studio's and Takahata's most overlooked gems, My Neighbours the Yamadas.

1999-My Neighbours the Yamadas
My Neighbours the Yamadas is Isao Takahata's fourth film for the studio and the most instantly stylistically different from the other films in the Ghibli canon.  It has a look of a moving water-colour painting and has the accolade of being the first Ghibli feature ever to be entirely computer animated.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Arizona Immigration Debate

All over America people have argued the legality of the proposed Arizona immigration bill, parts of which have come into effect today. Just yesterday the Obama administration won a key victory when parts of the bill were deemed unconstitutional  by District Judge Sarah Bolton. The moved has angered many republicans in the border state which suffers greatly from the immigration crisis.

The Governor of the State Jan Brewer is planning to appeal the decision of the judge and it looks likely the bill will be taken to the supreme court. Many other states across America were considering enacting similar laws and now it seems there pans may have hit a roadblock.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

India Extends Warm Welcome to Burmese Ruler

India has face waves of criticism from human rights groups due to a high profile 5 day long visit from General Than Shwe of Myanmar (Burma). The general berated by human rights groups for the illegality of his rule and the appalling human rights record in his country, was given a ceremonial welcome and greeted by top Indian officials as a State guest before being driven to the shrine of Mahatma Gandhi to pay homage to the late spiritual leader.

The Indian Government once was a staunch supporter of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but began having greater dealings with the illegal rulers in the mid 1990s. The two nations have actually been allies since 1951 when they signed what was known as a 'treaty of friendship'. Since then the nations are estimated to have traded $1 billion worth of goods.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Iraq Inquiry

Today all eyes in Britain were on Hans Blix as he made his appearance before the chairs of the Iraq Enquiry. For those of you who may have forgotten (or who haven't yet seen Team America) Blix worked for the UN as chief weapons  inspector at the time George W Bush threw charges at the administration of Saddam Hussein of harbouring nuclear weapons, or what have now become known as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Of course we now know that Blix found no such ammunitions but the US swears by its belief stating that they were concealed from the inspector. However, later reports confirmed that Iraq had abandoned its weapons programme many years ago. Blix has since become a staunch opponent of the Iraq war. he claimed that the U.S. was "high on military" at the inquiry saying it believed it could get away with anything.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide

The most prominent international story of today is that of the sentencing of Kaong Guek Eav chief torturer in th regime of the Khmer rouge. He received 35 years 11 of which were taken off for being already served and 5 more for co-operating with the court. He faces charges of overseeing the murder of 14,000 in the horrifying genocide and countless rapes amongst other charges of inhumane acts, torture and crimes against humanity.

Across Cambodia people crowded in cafes and houses to watch the broadcast live on television. There was widespread outrage at the verdict. many had demanded he be imprisoned for the rest of his life. As one man pointed out he would be spending just 11 hours in jail for each of the murders he oversaw as head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison. The Cambodians have earned their right to anger. Their suffering has been great and so far retribution pitiful.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Randomness:The Taiwanese Newsreader

Another week has flown by meaning its is time for another piece of weekend randomness. If you have missed out on any of the other editions in this series you can check them out in the blog archive on the side bar. This nugget of brilliance comes courtesy of Huang Ching a Taiwanese newsreader.

Last Wednesday while live on air the newsreader was the victim of a mosquito. The small insect was seen across homes in the nation crawling into the newsreader's mouth. Subsequently, the woman could be seen struggling for breath while valiantly trying to read out the rest of the news. Eventually, while in the midst of a sever asthmatic attack the broadcaster cut to 4 minutes of ads while a replacement presenter was drafted in and Ching was sent to hospital.

North Korea on the Offensive Again

There are very few countries I can think of as verbally aggressive as North Korea. In the wake of military drills on the Southern Norther border they released this charming little quote from the central press agency. The said they would "legitimately counter with powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces."  I don't exactly understand if this is North Korea claiming they are willing to go to war with the super power or basically reminding us they have nuclear weapons.

The drills carried out by the US and South Korean forces were in response to the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. if you missed that you can catch up here. Indeed the threat of War from both sides I believe is minimal. The last thing Obama wants is another war while his efforts to wind down US  involvement in Afghanistan are faltering and North Korea, a country with a devastated economy and aging leader surely doesn't want such unrest during a leadership exchange.

Starvation in Africa: An all too common Tale

Today  I read a shocking report on the current situation of food shortages in the central African nation of Niger.  Here hunger is threatening up to eight million people in the nation, half of its roughly 16 million population. The nation is in dire need of rainfall after drought has destroyed the lifestock of the largely nomadic country. The great hunger also threatens 2 million people in areas of the neighbouring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and northern Nigeria.

The UN World Food Programme says it only has half of the $213 million people it claims it needs to up the distribution of emergency food aid. Response to the crisis has so far been quite slow. The reason given for this is both obvious and devastating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 5

Today's edition of Me and Studio Ghibli sees us at the mid-nineties with the realease of Whisper of the Heart and one of the studio's most popular works Princess Mononoke. If you have missed any of the other parts of the series you can find the links at the bottom of this post past the page break.

1995-Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is interesting in that it is the studio's only work besides Tales from Earthsea and the direct to TV movie Ocean Waves to not be directed by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki. Instead it was the work of Yoshifumi Kondo who had previously worked at the studio as an animation director. His work can be seen in Only Yesterday and Kiki's Delivery Service. He also worked on Princess Mononoke before his death from overwork by a ruptured aneurysm in 1998. He was tipped to become one of the directors who would take over from an ageing Miyazaki and Takahata.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Child Sex Tourism in Asia

Today Mikhail Pletnev, a prominent and Grammy award winning Russian pianist took to the stand for a brief court appearance In Thailand charged with the rape of a 14 year old boy in Pattaya. The conditions of his bail require him to return to the court every 12 days but between these appearances he is free to travel as he wishes internationally. The maximum sentences for the proposed crime is 20 years. Pletnev has stated he is not guilty of the charge.

This allegation, raises again the issue of child sex tourism in Asia. Recent high profile cases of paedophilia in South East Asia have been the conviction of former pop start Gary Glitter and in Ireland only roughly a year ago a lauded Irish language poet was accused of similar offenses in the same region. Its clear that this is a growing and worrying problem.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend Randomness: I can be people too!

Update: According to magical internet statistics last week's post on the penguin theft from Dublin Zoo  was pretty popular with you guys so I've decided to make Weekend Randomness a weekly feature. Tell me what you guys think in the comments section.

One of the suprising things you find while searching the web on the trawl for the best in international news is the sheer volume of random and brilliantly unique events that happen every day on this crazy planet of ours. But the story that particularly caught my eye this week was that of a pack of gorillas which began making the rounds on Wednesday.

Dr. Davila Ross has a job that most of us would envy, and probably as rare as a social dialectologist. Dr. Ross is an expert in primates with specific focus on play and leisure. Over the past three years she has spearheaded a study into a simple game of chasing (or tag in American) between a group of gorillas in 5 different European zoos.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BP Crisis: End in Sight?

Undoubtedly the biggest international story of yesterday was that the oil leak had finally stopped for the first time since the 20th of April, almost 3 months ago. While they have plugged the leak celebrations are muted as the relief effort is still in its early stages and a permanent solution is still a long ways off.

The team first needs to measure the pressure in side the well of oil on which their cap was placed. If the inside pressure is high that is a good sign. However, low pressure means that there is a leak somewhere else on the ocean floor releasing oil and therefore lowering the pressure in the well. This operation will be completed, it is expected in the next 48 hours.If this is successful the team will then turn its attentions to the construction of two relief wells, the first of which will not be completed until mid-August.

The Loosening Grip of the Catholic Church

Today marked the publication of the Catholic Church's newest legislation in the fight against its ongoing fight with child sex abuse amongst the clergy. This story made headline news in Ireland, a country that has been rocked by the abuse scandal more than most

Let me explain something about the Church and the nation of Ireland. the Church has been the greatest political influence on this country from its creation in 1992 up until very recently. At the foundation of the State the church  was in charge of most of the country's hospitals and education facilities (it remains in a majority today). It also lead to the banning of pornography, contraception and up until the 1970's had a "special position" in the very Constitution of Ireland. Indeed, up until the child sex abuse scandal broke (originally about 5 years ago) the idea of being an ethnically Irish person who questioned Catholic teaching was bizarre and even admonished by elderly people. now dissent rings out from many corners against the Church and the pain of abuse victims is strewn across every newspaper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Homosexuality in Africa

Last week saw the passing of Ireland's civil partnership bill in the two houses of the Irish Parliament which will enact some of the same freedoms enjoyed by heterosexual couples to gay people in Irish law qhen it is enacted later this year or early 2011. Considering "buggery" was only decriminalised in this country in 1993 it is fair to say that this is a milestone for the country, still impacted heavily by the Catholic Church. However, on an EU basis Ireland ranks poorly when stood next to its Western European brethren and its clear that there is a long way to go.

As a gay man I am genuinely interested in gay rights worldwide and so last night's channel 4 documentary in its populr Dispatches series was a must for me. If you live in the UK or Ireland you may watch it on 4OD here, Africa's Last Taboo. The show follows an African journalist as he travels around what he refers to as his continent visiting Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. The programme states that over two thirds of African nations have laws condemning acts of homosexuality. 17 of these countries maintain laws passed down by the British in colonial times. The programme all in all was fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in LGBT rights. It spurred me into taking a closer look into the issue on the world's most conservative continent.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Horror in Uganda

If you have read my post a couple of weeks ago about the recent presidential election in Somaliland, (if not catch it here) you will have heard about the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab. They are currently in control of a large portion of central and Southern Somalia including a large area of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Here it has imposed a form of Shariah law.

They are currently in the news due to last night's attacks on the Ugandan capital Kampala. There were three bomb blasts in the capital which coincided with the World Cup final. Two blasts were heard in the rugby centre where a group of fans were enjoying the match and a third was directed at an Ethiopian restaurant in a busy shopping district. The group is claiming responsibility for the attacks. 74 people including an Irish and American person, Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens along with a large group of Ugandans.

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 4

It has been a while since my last entry in this series and I apologise for past design quirks (which remain unfix-able despite my best efforts). So having looked at the studio's first 6 masterpieces we will now turn to look at Porco Rosso and Pom Poko, films with a pig and raccoon lead respectfully. If you've missed any of the other parts of this feature you can find links at the bottom of this post.

1992-Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso could be described as a labour of love for Hayao Miyazaki, its creator and director. The film is interesting in that it has a clearly defined historical and geographical setting. It is set between the two World Wars in a town probably near to Fiume (a former independent state before its annexation  back to Italy).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend Randomness: Dublin on its Knees

I thought I should post this story because given the international readership of this blog it is unlikely that anyone outside of the Emerald Isle (ie Ireland) will ever hear about it. Of course being the blogger that I am and covering the type of material that I do I love anything with the faintest whiff of news or current affairs about it.

However, one major criteria for this is that it must not be Irish. Now this has nothing to do with the quality of Irish broadcasting. In fact for the money it receives i would be willing to bet the Irish state broadcaster does a fine job when compared to its international counterparts. Indeed for sports coverage Irish pundits are lauded in all major disciplines for being much much stronger than their British counterparts. The sole reason is that next to nothing ever happens in this country. That was until yesterday, Thursday the 8th of July.2010.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Solar Powered Plane in Successful Test Flight

In what the team are describing as a "milestone" for solar powered air transport a plane landed near the Swiss capital Berne this morning at 7am GMT after a 26 hour flight time. The plane had taken off from the same the same airport at 5 GMT, the previous day.

This is the longest length of time a plane powered by solar energy has stayed airborne for and reaching an altitude of 8,700m it is also the highest altitude reached by any such aircraft. The team responsible for the feat is called Solar Impulse and one of the team's co-founders is Bertrand Piccard who achieved the world's first circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon in 1999.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ban on Burqa in France?

Today the French Government began a debate on the banning of Muslim-garments which cover a woman's face or  body. Such garments include the Burqa, which covers a woman's entire body and face and the niqab, which covers the face and neck. The vote in the French Parliament was called after the French Council of Ministers approved the measure in May.

This is only one step in a process that has been taking place over the course of the past year when a group of lawmakers recommended the ban and in May they passed a non-binding resolution which noted the full face veil was entirely contrary to the French Constitution.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pointless Presidency

Today will mark the ascension to power of  the next routinely elected Polish after the death of the country's last President in a plane crash on April 10th last. The winner with 95 percent of the votes counted is expected to be Bronislaw Komorowski,  the man who has acted as interim President for the past couple of months.
While reading the story it got me wondering about the nature of Presidency in some countries. The role of the Irish President and Polish President are similar in nature. There duty is to act as a representative of the State abroad but both importantly have the power to veto certain laws they find to be unconstitutional pending supreme court review. However, while this seems significant in the 13 years that our President Mary Mc Aleese has been in power she has done this just once. No Irish president has ever dissolved Government. It begs the question, what is the point?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Google V China Continues

In January of this year the world's most populous country came to blows with the world's most popular superpower, online behemoth, Google. The conflict originated over the Chinese Government's attempt to hack into G-mail accounts belonging to human rights workers in the country. The search engine also took issue with China's censorship of certain content online such as the Tienanmen Square massacre.

While the story did make headlines across the world and the search engine operators were lauded for not bowing to the pressure of the rising superpower to heavily censor its results. Since January has remained accessible from the Chinese mainland however, beginning March 22nd users of Google in China were redirected to where users could attain entirely uncensored search results.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli:Part 3

As promised, here is part three of my Studio Ghibli feature. If you need to catch up here is the link to part one (covering Naussica and Laputa) and here is part two (where I write about Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro). Today I have two more delectible morsels of Ghibli magic.

1989-Kiki's Delivery Service
Released in Japanese cinemas on the 29th of July Kiki's Delivery Service is Miyazaki's  second children's film and as Totoro is completely his own work, written and directed by the Anime genius.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Do as we Say and as we Do

Site Note: Hey again guys. I'm back home from my couple of days at the beautiful house of a great friend so this post will be out live. I apologise for some of the recent quality issues with some of my posts. They have been edited. But now back to the news

As a very willing student of socio-linguistics the story I am writing about today is something somewhat close to my heart.The persecution of people and discrimination against certain languages is something that I am must staunchly against.

According to our lecturer it was the policy of the former Republican administration to ensure the workplace remained a place of English only.  The treatment of four Philipino nurses in Baltimore. The group of 4 allege that the sole reason for their April 16th was the that they were heard speaking in their native Tagalog tongue while on a lunch break in the ER in which they were working.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

South Africa: Doctor Invents New Condom

While this is a news story that may have been doing the rounds for quite some time now, I wanted to post about it giving the content of my recent blog post about troubles such as rape in South Africa.The condom was invented by Sonnet Ahlers after her harrowing experiences dealing with rape victims in her native country.

The condom has been in existence since 2005. However, it has been redesigned in 2009 and made big waves in the media again of late with the inventors plans to distribute 30,000 of the invention to women in the lead up to the World Cup. She has sacrificed a lot to get to where she is today having sold her car and houses in order to fund the project. She hopes that when on sale in the future the device will cost just $2.