News from Japan, Cyprus and China

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on April 2, 2013

JAPAN – Tsunami ghost towns laid bare by Google Street View

image810Concrete rubble litters streets lined with shuttered shops and dark windows. A collapsed roof juts from the ground. A ship sits stranded on a stretch of dirt flattened when the tsunami roared across the coastline. There isn’t a person in sight.

Google Street View is giving the world a rare glimpse into one of Japan’s eerie ghost towns, created by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster that has left the area uninhabitable.

The technology pieces together digital images captured by Google’s fleet of camera-equipped vehicles and allows viewers to take virtual tours of locations around the world, including faraway spots like the South Pole and fantastic landscapes like the Grand Canyon.

Now it is taking people inside Japan’s nuclear no-go zone, to the city of Namie, whose 21,000 residents have been unable to return to live since they fled the radiation spewing from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant two years ago.

Street View was started in 2007, and now provides images from more than 3,000 cities across 48 countries, as well as parts of the Arctic and Antarctica.

CYPRUS – Mega-Rich Withdrew Money From Banks Before Government Confiscates

image804“A company owned by in-laws of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades withdrew dozens of millions from Laiki Bank on March 12 and 13, according to an article published in Cypriot newspaper Haravgi,” reports EnetEnglish.

“The newspaper, which is affiliated to the communist-rooted AKEL party, reports that three days before the Eurogroup meeting [the President’s in-law’s] company took five promissory notes worth €21m [$27 million] from Laiki Bank and transferred the money to London.”

In addition, as Reuters reports, “While ordinary Cypriots queued at ATM machines to withdraw a few hundred euros as credit card transactions stopped, other depositors used an array of techniques to access their money.”

Branches and subsidiaries of Cypriot banks in London and Russia remained open while banks in Cyprus were closed, allowing Russian oligarchs [an oligarch is a very rich businessman with a great deal of political influence] and other wealthy depositors to move their money.

When asked about the amount of money that had exited Cyprus before the bailout deal, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble refused to provide figures. …

As Business Insider reports, the fact that the mega-rich – the supposed targets of Cyprus “haircut” – have already removed most of their money from the system means that, “upper middle class/entrepreneur types will feel most of the pain if the Cyprus tax [government confiscation of people’s savings accounts] is enacted.” …

CHINA – New president calls for a ‘Chinese Dream’

image811

China’s President Xi Jinping

In his March inaugural address as president…Xi Jinping grandly laid out his vision of the “Chinese Dream.”

Broadcast live on almost every major television channel, Mr. Xi called for a “great renaissance of the Chinese nation,” returning China to its former position at the center of the world.

After ten years of interminable and largely incomprehensible speeches from President Hu Jintao, the 59-year-old Mr. Xi struck a far more confident, relaxed and reflective tone. …

Again and again he invoked the “Chinese Dream,” a call to arms that he hopes will bring the country’s increasingly fragmented society together. 

Unlike the American Dream, however, which exalts the opportunity for each individual to achieve success through hard work, the Chinese Dream as told by Mr Xi owes much to collectivism.

“The Chinese spirit brings us together and builds our country together,” said Mr. Xi. “To create the Chinese Dream we must unite all Chinese power. “As long as we stay united, we will share the opportunity to make our dreams come true.”

The dream, according to commentators, is to return China to the position it held in the middle ages: the world’s most advanced and civilized nation. …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on March 17 and March 22 and Infowars on April 1.)   

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:

a) capital
b) location/the countries that share its borders:
c) the religious breakdown of the population:
d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:
f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For JAPAN:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) The use of Google Street View to give former residents video access to their old cities is a positive technological advancement. Is there any place you might not want Google cameras to be filming?

3. For CYPRUS:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) From the “Background” below the questions: “Since the theft has been characterized by the media as merely targeting rich Russian oligarchs and other wealthy investors, the uproar has diminished.” Why do you think the media has portrayed the confiscation of private funds by the Cypriot government as mainly targeting the rich?

4. For CHINA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Collectivism is defined as: a political or economic system in which the government owns businesses, land, etc. How does the American Dream differ from the “Chinese Dream”?


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Background

JAPAN:

  • Koto Naganuma, 32, who lost her home in the tsunami, said some people find it too painful to see the places that were so familiar yet are now so out of reach. She has only gone back once, a year ago, and for a few minutes. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited I can take a look at those places that are so dear to me,” said Naganuma. “It would be hard, too. No one is going to be there.”
  • Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said memories came flooding back as he looked at the images shot by Google earlier this month. He spotted an area where an autumn festival used to be held and another of an elementary school that was once packed with schoolchildren.
  • “Those of us in the older generation feel that we received this town from our forbearers, and we feel great pain that we cannot pass it down to our children,” he said in a post on his blog. We want this Street View imagery to become a permanent record of what happened to Namie-machi in the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.” (from the news brief above)
  • CYPRUS:

    • News that the Cypriot President’s family moved $27 million to London days before the bank accounts of his people were looted as part of the bailout deal serves as another reminder that while the media portrays the victims of the Cyprus “haircut” as the mega rich and wealthy Russian oligarchs, the real victims are middle class families and small business owners.
    • When asked about the amount of money that had exited Cyprus before the bailout deal, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble refused to provide figures. “Perhaps because if he did, it would become clear that the only entities truly punished by this weekend’s actions are not evil Russian billionaires, but small and medium domestic companies, and other moderately wealthy individuals, hardly any of them from the former “Evil Empire,” remarks Zero Hedge.
    • In other words, the very engine of the Cypriot economy, the businesses and the employers, will be the victims of the EU/IMF plundering. Middle class families are also amongst the worst affected. London’s Daily Telegraph recently reported on a family who sold their [vacation home] in Cyprus for $250,000 right before the “haircut” was announced only to see the desperately needed cash disappear.
    • As we highlighted last week, a screenshot from an online bank account belonging to a medium-sized IT business in Cyprus shows over 720,000 euros [over $900,000] in “blocked funds.” According to the owner, 80 percent of that will be swiped and what’s left will take 6 to 7 years to get back.
    • After an initial attempt to plunder around 10 per cent of savings was rejected after a huge public outcry, Bank of Cyprus depositors now face losing up to 60% of their money, with Cyprus’s financial minister Michalis Sarris warning the “haircut” could even be as much as 80%.
    • However, since the theft has been characterized by the media as merely targeting rich Russian oligarchs and other wealthy investors, the uproar has diminished.
    • In reality, the mega-rich managed to get their money out either before the crisis even started or during the so-called “bank holiday” period while middle class depositors were left stranded.
    • Given that the looting of bank accounts has now been established as the template for future “bank recapitalizations” across Europe as well as Canada, the middle class has now been permanently put in the crosshairs and will be expected to pay for bankers’ gambling losses with their savings on a regular basis. (from the news brief above)
  • CHINA:

    • Recognizing the spiritual vacuum at the heart of China’s economic miracle, President Xi seems keen to fill it with a sense that the country could recreate its glorious history.
    • As China’s middle class expands, and the public’s aspirations grow, it is a narrative that Mr. Xi hopes will continue to gel its 1.3 billion citizens together.
    • “The ’Chinese Dream’ is well on its way to becoming a popular political term for the coming decade,” wrote Wang Yiwei in the Global Times newspaper. “It goes beyond economic development, to focus on what path China will choose after it becomes developed,” he added.
    • After Mr. Xi spoke, Li Keqiang, the new Chinese prime minister, took staged questions from the media for over an hour-and-a-half, spelling out some concrete proposals for combatting bureaucracy and government waste.
    • Perhaps in a reference to his predecessor, Wen Jiabao, whose family has reportedly amassed a $2.7 billion fortune, Mr. Li said: “Clean government should start with oneself. Only when one is upright himself can he or her ask others to be upright. Since we have chosen public office we should give up all thought of making money. We will accept the supervision of the whole public and the media.” He promised that, during his ten years of office, no new government buildings would be commissioned, the number of bureaucrats on the payroll will decrease, and that spending on hospitality and overseas travel will fall. (from the news brief above)

    Resources

    JAPAN: For previous articles and videos of Japan’s 2011 tsunami, go to: 

    studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/japans-survivors-scavenge-for-hope (scroll down to “Resources” for videos)

    studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/woman-in-iconic-tsunami-photo-looks-to-future (scroll down to “Resources” for videos)

  • CYPRUS

    Bailout_SteveKelly

    Cartoon by Steve Kelley