Tokyo – A Greenpeace effort to expose what it sees as widespread corruption in Japan's government-subsidized whaling industry ended on Monday with two of its activists convicted of theft and trespassing.
Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki -- dubbed the "Tokyo Two" by their organization -- received suspended sentences for taking a package from a delivery company in April 2008 that was filled with prime whale meat and addressed to the home of a crewmember on one of Japan's research whaling vessels.
The pair, acting on a tip from a former whaler that crews were privately taking and selling whale meat that rightfully belongs to the government, delivered the package along with an explanation of their investigation to the Tokyo Prosecutors`Office the following month. But rather than resulting in government action on the alleged practice, the two were soon arrested and charged.
This is the second recent case in which prosecutors have taken action against opponents of Japan's whaling industry. In July New Zealander Peter Bethune was handed a two-year suspended sentence for illegally boarding a Japanse whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean as part of an effort to disrupt whaling by Sea Shepherds activists.
The verdict was â€œa partial vindication, because the two activists are not going to prison,â€
A brief investigation into embezzlement in Japan’s “scientific whaling” industry was dropped in June 2008 and the pair arrested following dramatic raids involving dozens of policemen and in front of the media, who had been tipped-off by the police.
The trial began in February this year, despite protests from the defense team that there was no case to answer as the investigation had been in the public interest and there had been no intention to profit from taking the meat.
With the conviction rate in Japanese criminal trials still running at over 99 percent, despite the introduction last year of a jury-like lay judge system, the chances for the activists were never good.
The court acknowledged that there had been â€œdubious practicesâ€
“The activists’ actions were clearly not criminal in nature, and they acted solely in the public interest to expose theft of Japanese taxpayers’ money,” said Naidoo, who called on the government to open an inquiry into corruption in its subsidized whaling industry.
"While the court acknowledged that there were questionable practices in the whaling industry, it did not recognize the right to expose these, as is guaranteed under international law,” said defendant Sato. “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on which our defense was based, supercedes domestic criminal law, but the judgment did not properly take this into account."
The prosecution had sought terms of 18 months for the accused. Instead they received 12-month suspended sentences. But according to Sato the verdict sends a message that “if you do something like this, you can be imprisoned.”
Greenpeace says it will appeal the verdict.
NEW YORK (AFP) – Animal rights activists stuck a fork in Lady Gaga's meat dress Tuesday but supporters rallied around the bizarre singer, saying her outfit was absolutely sizzling.
The professional provocateur upstaged the MTV music video awards late Sunday not just by walking away with eight prizes, but taking that walk in enormous shoes and a nifty dress made entirely of raw steak.
Now Lady Gaga, whose "Bad Romance" hit swept the awards, stands accused of bad taste.
"Lady Gaga has a hard time being 'over the top,'" said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Someone should whisper in her ear that there are more people upset by butchery than impressed by it."
"Meat is the decomposing flesh of an abused animal who didn't want to die, and after time spent under the TV lights, it would smell like the rotting flesh that it is and likely be crawling in maggots."
The singer is known for her theatrical sartorial taste so it was no surprise when she shuffled awkwardly across the MTV stage in Los Angeles in what appeared to television viewers to be simply an uncomfortable and oversized pair of boots bound in string.
The only reference Lady Gaga made to what she was wearing was a mysterious comment while collecting her Video of the Year gong about handing her "meat purse" to '80s icon Cher.
The purse, it turned out, really was a big chunk of meat -- cheap cuts and trimmings, not sirloin, according to butchers. And so was her hat.
Lady Gaga explained later that the fleshy look -- which she repeats with a meat swimming suit on the October cover of Vogue Hommes in Japan -- "has many interpretations."
The most common theory is that her steak-powered statement referenced her support for gays in the US military and opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the ranks.
"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian," she told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who is a vegan.
"If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat."
Whatever it meant, the stunt ensured Lady Gaga's continued notoriety -- and a long menu of meaty jokes.
"She's Lady Tartare in this moo-moo!" screamed the New York Daily News. "Gaga in all her 'gory'" punned the rival New York Post.
And far from everyone felt disgusted.
Designer Franc Fernandez proudly posted pictures of the project on his website, http://francfernandez.blogspot.com, and fans congratulated him on his workmanship.
"You are a cut above the rest," one wrote on the blog.
Cher, who certainly got close enough to know whether there were really maggots, also applauded the skirt steak.
"The way it was cut and fitted to her body was AMAZING! Meat purse was genius! As Art piece it was astonishing! No moral Judgment!" tweeted the singer.
Rich Hanley, professor of communications at Quinnipiac University, said Lady Gaga showed perfect media savvy in how she unveiled her stunt -- showing up in the attention-grabbing outfit, but not talking about it.
"If she'd said 'look at me, I'm wearing meat,' it would have destroyed any build up in the eco system of the web," Hanley said. "You just let Facebook and Twitter do the heavy lifting for you."
"It shows how high the bar is -- or how low the bar is -- in this media environment," he said.
TOKYO (AFP) – Animal rights activists protested against Japan's dolphin hunts in a rally outside the US embassy in Tokyo Thursday, calling on President Barack Obama to pressure the country over the issue.
Ric O'Barry, star of the Oscar-winning eco-documentary "The Cove", handed a petition with 1.7 million signatures from more than 150 countries to US embassy officials, a day after the dolphin season started in the town of Taiji.
"We have come to ask President Obama to get involved in this issue and ask the Japanese government to abolish this annual, anachronistic, brutal slaughter of dolphins," said O'Barry, who trained dolphins for the TV show "Flipper".
The US president is expected to visit Japan in November for an annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.
Some 70 volunteers from countries including the United States, Canada and Australia have gathered in Tokyo to join O'Barry, and 40 of them accompanied him up to the police security perimeter around the US embassy.
O'Barry said the group had called off plans to visit Taiji, in southwestern Japan, after receiving threats of violence from right-wing nationalist groups that defend the country's right to hunt dolphins and whales.
"Police have warned me that, if I went, there would be violence," he said. "We don't want to provoke violence."
Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a shallow bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat.
Japanese media said fishermen in Taiji had trapped some 20 bottlenose dolphins in the secluded cove on Thursday, the first
catch of the season, but a local fisherman declined to confirm the reports.
"We don't want to be reported on by foreign media," he said. "This is what we do for a living. We are worn out because of the row over 'The Cove'."
The crew that shot the film over several years often worked secretly and at night to elude authorities and angry fishermen, setting up disguised cameras underwater and in forested hills around the rocky cove.
"The Cove", directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary this year. A follow-up television series called "Blood Dolphins" is airing on the Animal Planet channel.
Panda in Japan zoo dies during breeding programme
Kou Kou, or Xing Xing in Chinese, died Thursday of cardiac arrest after failing to recover from an anaesthetic at the Oji Zoo in the western port city of Kobe.
Veterinarians had sedated the 14-year-old animal as part of a programme to impregnate his partner Tan Tan, or Shuang Shuang in Chinese, also 14.
The zoo has set up a site for floral tributes and a message board.
Giant pandas, a highly endangered species native to parts of China, are notoriously slow at reproducing in captivity.
The Kobe zoo, after trying in vain to naturally mate the pair from 2003 to 2006, then began trying artificial insemination.
Tan Tan became pregnant in 2007 but the cub was stillborn. She had a live birth the following August, but the cub died three days later.
by NPR Staff
- September 11, 2010
"You need to invest in your future." "A home is a great investment." "It might be painful for a while, but it's worth it."
These are the refrains Dawn Crowell of St. Paul, Minn., heard over and over again from just about everyone.
The single mother of four eventually bought a house with the assumption that it would only increase in value. But like millions of Americans, Crowell has seen the value of her house plummet.
Over the past four years, Americans have lost more than $5 trillion in wealth tied up in their homes. Economists hold vastly different views on whether there are worse days to come, and whether the home was ever meant to be a nest egg.
The 40-Year Bubble
Market-watcher Barry Ritholtz tells NPR's Guy Raz that based on his estimates, homes are still overvalued by about 10 to 20 percent, and that means prices can go down even further.
For him, there is no such thing as a foolproof investment, and the conditions that created the rising home values of the last 20 to 40 years were rare.
"If you look at the factors that were driving home prices from 1970 to 2000, they don't exist going forward," he says.
Ritholtz attributes the housing bubble to both the availability of credit and the baby boom generation. He says in the '80s and '90s that generation was at prime home-buying age, and now, that demographic bulge no longer exists.
Plus, he says, there’s the impact of mortgage rates, now at record lows just above 4 percent.
"They're likely over the next 10 to 20 [years] to go higher and that creates a headwind to potential real estate appreciation," he says.
But according to professor Karl Case, one half of the Case-Shiller index, there's some good news as well.
The Case-Shiller index is one of the best measures of home values, and the latest numbers show that homes are now worth about the same as they were in 2003.
Case says the housing market seems to have bottomed out, and in some places, prices are coming back up.
The cost of California homes -- which account for a quarter of the market -- have gone up dramatically. Not long ago, San Francisco had hit bottom; Case says that market is now up by 21 percent.
"Eventually when prices get down low enough, people are going to buy this property," he says. "They're going to buy it up, they're going to live in it, and by all historical standards, they're getting a pretty good bargain right now."
According to Case, prices are the best they've been in five years -- and perhaps in his lifetime. He says the idea of a house having ever-increasing value never existed, but a house can still be a good long-term investment.
"If you don't think of housing just as something to earn you capital gains in the long run, but something you're going to live in, and you can afford to pay the payments on it," he says, "it looks to be a pretty good deal." [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]
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By Kazuyo Sawa - Sep 8, 2010
A Japanese town is offering a 200,000 yen ($2,400) reward for the capture of a monkey that’s broken into houses and attacked 43 people in the past month.
A single male macaque, aged about 5 years, is believed to be responsible for the attacks, said Masayuki Miyazaki, a spokesman for the Mishima city government. The bounty will be introduced today and given to anyone able to lock the monkey in their house, he said.
“Many people are afraid to go outside,” Miyazaki said by telephone today. “We’ve had isolated cases of crop damage by monkeys before, but there’s never been anything like this.”
The monkey is also believed to be responsible for 38 attacks in three nearby towns, he said. The only reported injuries have been minor scratches and bites. Mishima, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tokyo, updates a website every day to provide residents with information about the attacks.
At least eight people were lightly bitten in the town yesterday and there were 15 reported monkey sightings, according to the website.
About 10,000 Japanese macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys, are caught nationwide each year to prevent damage to crops, according to the Ministry of Environment.
More than 200 Mishima government workers, some armed with tranquilizer guns, this morning searched the town for the monkey, Miyazaki said. There were no sightings of the primate.
Parents have been advised to walk their children to school, and the city has increased police patrols. Residents should be particularly watchful in the morning when monkeys are likely to be more active, Mishima’s website says.
“The monkey is probably just seeking attention and wanting to play, but people need to be careful,” Miyazaki said. “They should run if they see the monkey.”
An official in the seaside village of Taiji, depicted in the film "The Cove," said a handful of the best-looking dolphins were kept to be sold to aquariums, but the rest were set free Friday morning. He declined to give details.
The decision to set most of the dolphins free marks a departure from past practice.
Conservationist group Sea Shepherd said it has been monitoring Taiji with a small crew of activists this week, and urged people to come to the village to help save the dolphins.
Dolphins swim in pods in the ocean. Taiji fishermen herd them by scaring them with noise into the cove, save some for aquariums and kill the rest, piercing them repeatedly until the waters turn red with blood.
It was not clear where the activists had stationed themselves Friday, but it was unlikely they would be able to see any slaughter since the cove is hidden from the village itself. But they would likely be able to watch the fishermen return to the village with their catch.
The shocking depiction of the slaughter in "The Cove" has launched calls for the hunt to be stopped. The film, which stars Ric O'Barry, won this year's Academy Award for best documentary.
On Thursday, a day after the annual hunt began in Taiji, O'Barry, 70, took a petition calling for its end with 1.7 million signatures from 155 nations to the U.S. Embassy.
O'Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV show and a longtime dolphin activist, has received threats from a violent nationalist group and skipped going to Taiji this year, a trip he normally makes to protest the hunt. He said he had been advised by Japanese authorities not to go.
Taiji residents say the criticism the town has received from the West is unfair because residents are merely trying to make a living in an area where a rocky landscape would make farming and livestock-raising difficult.
Nationalist groups say criticism of dolphin hunting is a denigration of Japanese culture.
The Japanese government allows a hunt of about 20,000 dolphins a year, and argues that killing them — and whales — is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter. Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat and, even in Taiji, it is not consumed regularly.
The government is also critical of Sea Shepherd, which has harassed Japanese whaling ships. In July, a Tokyo court convicted New Zealander Peter Bethune, a former Sea Shepherd activist, of obstructing a Japanese whaling mission in the Antarctic Ocean, assault, trespassing and other charges. He was deported.
"I'm not losing hope. Our voice is being heard in Taiji," said O'Barry, who has campaigned for four decades to save dolphins not only from slaughter but also from captivity.
"The Cove": http://www.thecovemovie.com/
TOKYO (AFP) – A Japanese man drove the wrong way down an expressway for 90 kilometres (55 miles) and broke through five police barricades because his cat had died, he told police.
Tsutomu Mizumoto, 31, was arrested early Wednesday on the northern island of Hokkaido, the Mainichi daily reported.
Police said they responded to an emergency call about 5:45 a.m. about a car driving the wrong way on a motorway near the city of Otaru. They spotted the vehicle 15 minutes later and pursued the driver, ordering him to stop.
Mizumoto ignored them and drove on, smashing through five emergency blockades and passing through a tollgate. He finally stopped at about 7:15 a.m. when police detained him.
"I was sad that my pet cat died," he was quoted as telling police. "I wanted to do something crazy."