August 8th, 2010


US military uses manga to reach out to Japan


Image and video hosting by TinyPic
The US military is using manga to teach a new generation in Japan about the importance of their half-century security alliance in a new comic book series.

The story features an American boy called Usa-kun -- a word play on USA and "usagi", Japanese for rabbit -- who wears a hooded jacket with bunny ears and befriends a Japanese girl, Anzu Arai.

In the first issue of "Our Alliance -- A Lasting Partnership", to be published online Wednesday, the boy tells Anzu that he has come to defend her home because they are "important friends".

The United States is publishing the Japanese-language comic as both nations mark the 50th anniversary of their security treaty, and two days before the 65th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

US-Japan ties have been strained for the past year as a new centre-left government in Japan for months publicly toyed with the idea of moving a controversial US airbase off the southern island of Okinawa.

In the four-part comic series, the two main characters "explore and learn about the US military in Japan and its role in the US-Japan alliance," according to a statement from the US forces.

The US military chose the manga format because it is "a very common way of communicating in Japan," Major Neal Fisher, deputy director of the US forces' public affairs office in Japan, told AFP by telephone.

"A lot of people love manga... Manga is a very light-hearted way to carry information" on where the US bases are, what they are doing and how they are cooperating with the Japanese forces, he said.

The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, has 47,000 troops stationed in the country.

The comic will be published at noon Wednesday at

Freedom to Worship is Tearing Apart the Fabric of Society

Study Suggests that Modern Moderate Mosques and Centers of Assimilation and Learning that Deters Extremism Scares the Living Sh#t Out of White America.

Study: Contemporary Mosques Are A Deterrent To The Spread Of Terrorism

In recent weeks, conservatives who have been arguing against the construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero have been claiming that such a building would be “offensive” to the memory of the 9/11 victims. They have also tried to imply that this mosque would embolden terrorists, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich saying:
The idea of a 13-story building set up by a group many of whom, frankly, are very hostile to our civilization — and I’m talking now about the people who organized this, many of whom are apologists for sharia, which is a form of law that I think we cannot allow in this country, period.
However, today the New York Times highlights an academic study that concludes the opposite of what Gingrich and his uninformed ilk are claiming, finding that many mosques deter terrorism:
A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts.
“Our research suggests that initiatives that treat Muslim-Americans as part of the solution to this problem are far more likely to be successful,” said David Schanzer, one of the authors of the study. Co-author David Kurzman added, “Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization. This is one reason that Muslim-American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11.”

The Center for American Progress recently held an event on identifying, preventing, and responding to domestic terrorism, with Schanzer and other experts. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was the keynote speaker, and he pointed to the “critical role Muslims in America have played and must continue to play in fighting domestic violent extremism.” For example, as ThinkProgress highlighted, Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a vendor in Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car that was part of the failed Times Square bombing plot to the police’s attention.

Unfortunately, the battle at Ground Zero is playing out across the country. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, protesters are similarly disparaging a proposed mosque. In June, Lou Ann Zelenik — a Republican candidate for Congress in that area — claimed the mosque was “designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee.” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), who is running for governor, wondered whether Islam is a “cult” and said Muslims “crossed a line when they start trying to bring Sharia Law into the state of Tennessee.”

Additionally, supporters of these Islamic centers are not the ones who are being extremists — it’s the opponents who are ramping up. Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), run by self-described “anti-jihadist” and right-wing blogger Pamela Geller — has launched a series of bus ads reading, “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!” in major cities. Opponents of a planned mosque in southern California have ominously warned of a “confrontational atmosphere” if the construction plans move forward:
The pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, just across a cul-de-sac from the site of the mosque, said the two religions “mix like oil and water” and predicted a “confrontational atmosphere” if the project moves forward.

“The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread,” said Pastor Bill Rench.

There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it’s a religion of peace? Many others have said the same thing,” he said.
On Friday, the Connecticut Post reported that approximately “a dozen right-wing Christians, carrying placards and yelling ‘Islam is a lie,’” confronted Muslim worshippers outside a mosque. Using a bullhorn, the protesters yelled “Jesus hates Muslims,” and one protester “shoved a placard at a group of young children leaving the mosque.”
panda bear

(no subject)

Fidel Castro: Obama can avert impending nuclear holocaust

Cuba's Fidel Castro took part in his first government function since he nearly died in 2006, repeating his apocalyptic warnings of a nuclear war that only President Barack Obama can avert as he spoke Saturday to a formal session of parliament.

Castro, who will turn 84 on Friday, appeared lucid and healthy during his 90-minute appearance before the National Assembly of People's Power, though an aide helped him walk around the stage.

It was the first time he participated in an official government act in four years and the latest in a string of recent public appearances that have fueled reports he wants to return to his leadership position.

Castro largely avoided the limelight after emergency intestinal surgery left him at death's door in 2006. His younger brother Raúl formally succeeded him as Cuba's leader in 2008.

Assembly members burst into applause when he walked in, said he looked ``as big as ever'' and called him comandante en jefe instead of his more recent and plain title of compañero. One sent him ``kisses, comandante.''

Wearing a military-styled olive green jacket and pants, Castro sat on the stage among the Assembly's leadership but not on the chair that he used when he led the country, which has been left empty since 2006.

Raúl Castro, wearing a white guayabera, sat on the opposite side of the stage and did not address the session. The live TV broadcast did not show the two brothers interacting. Fidel remains first secretary of the ruling Communist Party while Raúl is second secretary.

``It was clearly a command performance, and nothing about it will enhance Raúl's legitimacy as Cuba's president," said Brian Latell, a former Cuba analyst at the CIA.

``Does it all mean that Fidel is now more in control than in the past four year? I think so,'' said Andy Gomez, senior fellow at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.

``But it's difficult to take him seriously,'' said Miami radio cmmentator Ninoska Perez. ``He talks about the risks of nuclear war, and his 50 years in power have been as catastrophic as a nuclear war.''

As in all his recent appearances, Castro did not mention Cuba's economic crisis or his brother's efforts to ease it by adopting some reforms -- a silence interpreted by analysts as reflecting the older brother's steadfast adherence to the communist ideology.

Castro stood at the podium and read from a prepared text on the threat of nuclear war over Iran and North Korea for 12 minutes, then took writen questions from lawmakers handpicked by Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón.

He appeared to tire towards the end of the special Assembly session, which was held at his request, officially he does not have the authority to order it. Alarcón quickly brought it to an end.

Underlining the importance of his appearance, Castro noted that CNN was to broadcast the first half-hour live, and estimated its cost in advertising revenues at $100 million. Cuban officials invited foreign diplomats and journalists to the session, and announced that the live TV signal would be available free of charge to foreign stations.

Collapse )

JL: Annoyed J. Law

Anchor babies, the Ground Zero mosque and other scapegoats

Politics always seems to get a bit off-kilter when the temperature goes up. But instead of the familiar silly-season stuff of years past -- made-up scandals and who-cares gossip -- the past two summers have been filled with vitriol. Last year we had town halls gone wild, fueled by the threat of death panels pulling the plug on Grandma. This year, us-vs.-them controversies are proliferating, linked by a surge in xenophobia. This is our summer of fear.

So far, the summer of fear has featured a charge, led by Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and former New York congressman Rick Lazio, to block the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center (which is to include a mosque) a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, with frightening speed, we've gone from discussing the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to watching congressional Republicans call for hearings to reconsider the 14th Amendment's guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the United States.
Collapse )

Akuma River

Why we have free speech

Found via Andrew Sullivan's blog

Jonathan Rauch - FIRE's CFN 2010 from The FIRE on Vimeo.

I know it is long at 30 minutes, but there are many reasons to watch this video. One is that it touches on what liberal science is and its work in society. Another is that touches on minorities, marginalization, and how sometimes we are shooting ourselves in the foot. I think it is a very profound and informative video and I'm curious as to what you guys think.
Yzma's headache
  • calybe

Millions in despair as Pakistan floods spread

A child arrives in a village near Peshawar after fleeing his flooded home

Downpours are preventing helicopters from rescuing stranded people and delivering badly needed food and clean water.

More rain fell yesterday upon a Pakistan already inundated with floods, prompting the displacement of untold numbers of villagers and the despair of millions more. The United Nations said the disaster was, in terms of damage caused and the people in need, now "on a par" with the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which killed 73,000. Even heavier deluges are forecast for coming days.

Downpours Friday and early yesterday again swelled rivers and streams, and heavy rains in Afghanistan are expected to make things even worse over the next 36 hours, as the bloated Kabul River surges into Pakistan's north west. Pakistani officials estimate as many as 14 million people have been affected by the rising waters. About 1,600 people have died, most of them in the north west, the hardest-hit region. Mass evacuations are under way in the southern region of Sindh after the Indus River rose there.

As the floods spread south into Sindh yesterday, about 600 people were reported missing. Rushing waters washed away more than 2,000 villages and displaced 500,000 people. Authorities were desperately trying to protect two large dams in the region, in an attempt to prevent devastation on the scale seen in the north. Nevertheless, acres of wheat and sugar cane fields in the country's most fertile region were enveloped in water overnight, destroying two of Pakistan's most valuable export crops within hours. About half of the camps in southern Punjab have been evacuated over the past 48 hours as waters rose higher than expected, according to the NGO Plan International.

In northern areas, where thousands of people have been marooned since the rainfall began more than a week ago, fresh rains pounded down on a people who have had everything but their spirit to survive destroyed. A search and rescue team was dispatched to the village of Baseen in Gilgit-Baltistan yesterday after a river breach left about 300 people. This followed an earlier rescue attempt by the Pakistani military in the village of Ghanche in which 10 people were airlifted to safety but 30 others were washed away.

Eyewitnesses yesterday said babies were going hungry as dry milk powder and clean water supplies ran out, even in the camps receiving aid. Mothers in camps in Layyah in southern Punjab and Nowshera, in the north, have been forced to give their babies dirty water, according to aid agencies.

More than 700 camps have been set up in schools and colleges in every region, yet three-quarters of displaced people are still camped out on higher grounds outside – unable to reach the camps or else unwilling to leave their livestock on which they depend for a living. Thousands of people are stranded miles away from home, as many families were on holiday when the floods struck.

Collapse )

 Source: The Independent