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Them Duke boyz n the hood

Via Dangerous Dan, the Detroit News notes an ironic shift in the demographics of Dodge Charger owners:

The Charger received an early blessing from one of hip-hop's biggest names, 50 Cent, who after seeing the beefy sedan debut at the Detroit auto show requested the first production model. In a January phone message to the publisher of auto-customizing magazine Dub, the chart-topping rapper asked, "What I gotta' do to get that Dodge Charger first? I need that."

50 Cent got his wish. This spring, he became the first customer to take delivery of a 2006 Charger.

And a wave of interest from other rappers followed.

...The new rear-drive sedan is a four-door update of the classic fastback that was born in the early 1960s and was later known for as the Duke boys' creek-jumping General Lee on TV's "The Dukes of Hazzard."
That would be the General Lee with a huge Confederate flag painted on the roof.

Yee-hah, yo.

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Un-American vs. inappropriate

Via LGF, the New York Times editorializes that the goals of activist group Take Back The Memorial are "un-American".

Take Back The Memorial, whose site I've linked to via a small graphic in the right-hand sidebar here for some time now, opposes the construction of facilities at Ground Zero like the International Freedom Center's proposed Freedom Center, and a new outpost of the SoHo-based Drawing Center art gallery. The language in its "Campaign America" resolution that drew criticism from the Times reads:

RESOLVED, that the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation should fulfill its mission by ensuring no facilities that house controversial debate, dialogue, artistic impressions, or exhibits referring to extraneous historical events occupy space on the sacred site at Ground Zero; and that the World Trade Center Memorial must honor the mission of creating a dignified and respectful memorial which focuses exclusively on the victims, heroes and events of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993.
Banning controversial speech all together would certainly be un-American, but as I've argued before, that doesn't mean we must build a special shrine to institutionalize such speech at the site of a solemn memorial. Keeping America-bashing away from the gravesite of victims of the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history would be no less appropriate, and no less necessary, than keeping hecklers away from a funeral.

The Times titled its editorial "A Sense of Proportion at Ground Zero". Ironically, that's exactly what its snide accusation lacks.

More from Joe Malchow. And Take Back the Memorial responds to the Times editorial.

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A sloppy fatwa

Responding to the recent terror attacks in London and Egypt (or, more accurately, to the surge in anti-Islam sentiment that the terror attacks inspired), the Fiqh Council of North America has issued a "fatwa against terrorism":

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram — or forbidden — and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”
It goes on in that vein for a while. Here's the bottom line:
In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.
Item number 1 sounds good, although it won't do anything to end Palestinian suicide bombings of Israelis. Most Palestinians consider those acts to be a form of "legitimate resistance", not "terrorism." And because all Israelis, in general, perform a few years of mandatory service in the military, many Palestinians argue that there's no such thing as an Israeli civilian. So the the Jew killin' is likely to continue.

But what really caught my eye was item number 2. It forbids Muslims from cooperating "with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence." Well, the U.S. military is certainly involved in acts of violence in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. Does that mean this fatwah prohibits Muslims from serving in or cooperating with the U.S. military?

Before I get too excited about this fatwah, I'd like a little clarification from the Fiqh Council on points 1 and 2.

And via LGF, Steven Emerson also takes a critical view of the fatwah here, claiming that members of the Fiqh Council have ties to various terror groups.

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Not likely

The August 4 issue of London's Private Eye attributes the following news analysis to reporter John Simpson, speaking on Irish public radio:

“The fact is that when a suicide bomber strikes once, he or she may strike again.”

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Sean Hannity, super cyborg

Next month, ACC Studios is planning to release the first issue of "Liberality For All", which it claims is the "World's 1st Conservative Comic Book". (You can read a five-page excerpt starting here.)

Now, a comic about an Orwellian future in which liberals have taken over and conservative thought is outlawed could be interesting if it were done well. And by "done well", I mean "does not feature Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North as cyborg superheroes":

It is 2021, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. America is under oppression by ultra-liberal extremists that have surrendered governing authority to the United Nations. It is up to an underground group of bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives led by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North to thwart Ambassador Usama Bin Laden's plans to nuke New York City.
And does the artwork have to be so lame? Here's Liddy astride a motorcycle, and Hannity with an eyepatch and a robotic arm:
I've seen mannikins with more dramatic poses. Sheesh. Shouldn't a conservative comic book make liberals look ridiculous?

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Fighting spam, the Russian way

Via Bigwig, reports that Russians seem to have developed a new technique for stopping email spam:

Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.
Simple, but effective.

More on Russian reaction to Kushnir's death here.

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Guns and Grokster

Daily Kos diarist Radical Russ claims to have found an ironic contrast between the ruling in recent Supreme Court case MGM v. Grokster (link goes to pdf file), and pending legislation affecting the gun industry.

First, Russ displays the relevant part of the Court's decision in Grokster, putting certain parts in boldface:

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties," Justice Souter wrote.
Russ then quotes the following Associated Press article about proposed legislation (championed by those sneaky Republicans!) that would shield gun makers from liability for gun crimes. Again, he uses boldface to emphasize certain words:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved the National Rifle Association's top priority ahead of a $491 billion defense bill, setting up a vote on legislation to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits over gun crimes.

"The president believes that the manufacturer of a legal product should not be held liable for the criminal misuse of that product by others," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We look at it from a standpoint of stopping lawsuit abuse."

The bill would prohibit lawsuits against the firearms industry for damages resulting from the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition.

[Senator Larry] Craig said such lawsuits are "predatory and aimed at bankrupting the firearms industry," unfairly blaming dealers and manufacturers for the crimes of gun users.
Outraged that a software maker can be liable for the misuse of its software, while a gun maker might not be liable for the misuse of its guns, Russ blames sinister corporate special interests for this alleged inconsistency:
Got that? If a company makes a product that is inappropriately used to illegally copy a movie, that company is liable. If a company makes a product that is inappropriately used to illegally kill a human, that company is not liable. What's the common logic holding these disparate concepts together? Massive corporate special interest money. Welcome to your government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations...
What's wrong with Russ's analysis? Well, first of all, Grokster was, of course, a court case, not a piece of legislation. All the special interest money in the world can't make five Justices rule in your favor.

But more importantly, Russ ignores the principle at the very core of the Court's holding in Grokster — that the maker of a file-sharing program or other copying device can be found liable for third-party actions if it distributes the device "with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement."

Those boldfaced words are the exact ones Russ didn't put in boldface. It's easy to see why he chose to ignore them: they contradict his argument. The Supreme Court says companies should be free to make software capable of copying and sharing files, so long as they don't promote them for the purpose of violating copyright law. It's entirely consistent with that principle that gun makers, who don't encourage people to use guns for criminal purposes, be held similarly blameless for the acts of third parties using their products.

(I found Russ's post cited approvingly on BoingBoing by Mark Frauenfelder, who is smart enough to know better.)

A BoingBoing reader comments, and Cory Doctorow replies.

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The Selfish American Cafe

Next time you're in eastern Setagaya, why not drop in for a bite at the Selfish American Country & Cafe:

The owner of this place doesn't think Americans are jerks. He's simply chosen a name for his shop that reads spectacularly poorly in English.

"Selfish", or its Japanese equivalent wagamama, as used by young Japanese people, can actually have an ironically positive connotation of independently following one's own whims, in the face of social pressure to conform to the group.

As the New York Times Magazine explained several years ago in an article about "parasite singles", or Japanese women who live with their parents rather than marry and take on the traditional role of wife and mother:
"No one is actually rejecting marriage," Izumi says quickly. "Not even Sumiko. They all think they'll probably get married some day. It's just..." She breaks off and laughs. "Women today are wagamama."

Her word choice is significant. Wagamama means selfish, willful; in a culture where personal sacrifice is the highest virtue, the connotation is far harsher, especially for women. Yet, as the parasite trend has emerged, women like Arai have taken on the word wagamama, albeit slightly tongue in cheek, as a term of defiance...transforming its meaning in the process to something closer to "choosy" or even "self-determining."
In that context, America is the ultimate wagamama nation: a land where everyone can pursue his own destiny.

I've never been so proud to be a selfish American.

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Democrat calls for Muslims to reject terror

Via Gindy, a US Senator has gone on record calling for ostensibly peace-loving Muslims to take a tougher stand against Islamic terrorism. And she's no neocon Republican, either. Agence France-Presse reports:

A top US Senator urged Muslim leaders across the world to issue a slew of religious edicts denouncing terrorism and warned that mosques in "many places" are enabling terrorists.

Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke in the wake of Saturday's bombings in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where 88 people were killed, and the July 7 attacks in London, where 52 people and four suicide bombers died. A new attack in London failed Thursday.

"I think until the mosques in the Muslim world and the imams in the Muslim world in a major way issue fatwa after fatwa denouncing jihad and denouncing terror that we're not going make any progress," the California Democrat told CNN.

"I don't see many, if any, major imams throughout all of the Muslim countries coming together and saying: Enough of this. Stop. This is not Islam. You know, we object to it," she said.
Sen. Feinstein makes a good point. Even if mainstream Muslim leaders bear no responsibility for Islamic terrorism, they do have a unique ability to fight it. Their words, at least in theory, carry a weight with other Muslims that the words of non-Muslim politicians do not. If they are truly appalled by the wave of terror being perpetrated around the world in the name of their religion, well, they're in an excellent position to do something about it.

Are they? In the same article, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's incoming US ambassador, says:
Many fatwas have come out from Muslim scholars and religious leaders against suicide bombings and against the killings that have taken place, but they're just not getting enough resonance in the public media and the public audiences that should be where these statements are directed.
Well, no. Those statements shouldn't be directed toward "the public media", as if the main goal were to polish up Islam's image. They should be directed to Muslims, in mosques, by imams. But either those statements are not being made, or they're not being taken seriously. And how could they be, when so many Muslims, not merely the extremists, reflexively support a Palestinian movement that has made the Islamic suicide bombing of civilians its signature weapon?

A denunciation of terrorism that overlooks terrorism against Israel is meaningless. Once you've decided it's okay to attack a bus full of Israelis, it's a lot easier to rationalize attacking a bus full of Londoners, or a hotel full of Egyptians. The sea change that Sen. Feinstein hopes for will not come until Muslim leaders unite to condemn terrorism against all people, without an Israel exception. I'm not holding my breath.

I smell a meme brewing... In the Wall Street Journal (via LGF), Ahmed H. al-Rahim calls for a "Million Muslim March" against terrorism.

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Cubans flee to dead country

NOTE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! And thanks for the link, Prof. Reynolds.

The New York Times reports on the group defection of 49 members of a Cuban dance troupe — possibly the largest defection of Cubans in American history:

Singers, dancers, musicians and other troupe members received notice this week that they will be allowed to stay in the United States, said Nicole "N.D. " Durr, creator of the "Havana Night Club" revue. (It recently changed its name to the "Havana Night Show.") Two members of the troupe decided to return to Cuba.

"A new chapter of their lives has started," Durr said. "Here's something we worked very hard for, we fought for. This is something that will change (their) destiny."

Troupe members hope to begin the process of becoming permanent residents and, ultimately, U.S. citizens.

"This has been pretty amazing for all of us," said Jose David Alvarez, 24, the host of the stage show. "The United States of America has always been a myth for Cuban young men like me and a lot of my colleagues in the company. It has always meant freedom for us, because in Cuba, it's kind of different."
Those poor saps. Don't they know that America is dead?

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Chinese hospitality

In the grand tradition of the Chinese restaurateur who barred Japanese customers from dining at his establishment unless they first apologized for Japan's actions during WWII, comes this Kyodo News story (found via C. Buddha):

A hospital in southern China has hung a sign outside its entrance forbidding Japanese people from entering unless they apologize for the Japanese army's World War II-era use of "comfort women," two of whom were treated there, a local paper reported Thursday.

The Hainan Eastern-Western Medicine United Hospital, located in the central district of Haikou, capital of the island province of Hainan, posted the sign in Chinese and Japanese on Wednesday afternoon, according to the South Country Metropolitan News.

The sign reads: "Japanese people first apologize, then enter. Japanese people who 'decide not to admit to their crimes' are prohibited from entering."

The sign drew a crowd of local people Wednesday, the paper said. The article did not say how often Japanese people visit the hospital.
Fortunately, after only one day of their little stunt, hospital managers decided to stop acting like a bunch of three-year-olds:
A hospital in southern China that hung up a sign last week forbidding Japanese people from entering unless they apologized for the Japanese military's wartime use of "comfort women" took the notice down after only one day, a hospital staff member said Monday.

The Hainan Eastern-Western Medicine United Hospital, located in the central district of Haikou, capital of the island province of Hainan, removed the notice from above its main gate on Thursday. The employee did not say how many Japanese people tried to enter the hospital on Wednesday and Thursday last week. She said the number of Japanese patients is "not a lot but not a few."
Whatever the differences between China and Japan may be, penalizing ordinary citizens today for the actions of their nation's former government over 60 years ago is simply ridiculous. I hope no Japanese patients were harmed as a result of this petty, childish bit of grandstanding.

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Why Japan won't be on the Security Council

Reuters reports on Japan's desperate last-ditch bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council — which, given that it would require China's approval, seems exceedingly unlikely:

Japan's relations with China have been strained by a series of disputes and its U.N. bid was among the factors that triggered violent anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities in April.

"This is a difficult proposal... It is hard to tell until the final stage," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters on Friday, when asked about the prospects for the G4 proposal.

Failure could spark annoyance with Washington and anger at China among Japanese lawmakers, already irked by Beijing's criticism of Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo shrine for war dead where convicted war criminals are also honoured.

It would also cause deep embarrassment, especially if it highlighted a lack of Asian support for the Japanese bid.
I would never tell Japan that it should follow China's orders. But when you really, really want a favor from someone — particularly someone who doesn't like you — it pays to be nice.

True, China's posture toward Japan has been particularly aggressive and arrogant over the past several months. But Japan has done nothing to curry favor with China, either.

It issued a new government-authorized history textbook skimming over Japanese WWII-era atrocities at Nanking.

It fought over the status of the Okinotori outcroppings, which Japan says are actual islands extending its territorial waters, and which China says are just a bunch of rocks.

It fought over ownership of the Senkaku Islands and the natural gas resources in the ocean floor around them. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands, and claims them for itself.

And, of course, it refused to give an inch on the contentious matter of Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

Again, I don't think Japan should necessarily defer to China on the above issues, or, for that matter, on any others. But nor should it be surprised when China vetoes its bid.

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How to fight terrorism

Master satirist Scott Ott at Scrappleface finds a way to unite the world against terrorism:

Although the United Nations lacks a consensus definition of "terrorism" and has no substantive anti-terror program, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said that yesterday's bombings in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, that killed more than 85 people, may violate the Kyoto protocols on climate change.

"The global concept of terrorism is hazy and subjective," said Mr. Annan, "but almost everyone agrees that blowing such a quantity of smoke, debris and blood-borne pathogens into our atmosphere is an unmitigated evil."

The Secretary-General called for the U.N. Security Council to issue "a stern resolution against this egregious pollution of Mother Earth, even if the justification for the bombings is debatable among civilized people."

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," Mr. Annan said. "But the horrifying consequences of unregulated emissions is a crisis that transcends culture and ideology, and demands immediate and vigorous action."
Kind of like nailing Al Capone for tax evasion, I guess.

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Muslims against terrorism

I've been posting quite a bit lately (see here, here, and here) about how it would be nice for the millions of Muslims that repudiate Islamic terrorism to make their voices heard.

Well, via Instapundit, here's a link to a Muslim anti-terrorism protest in California, plus one in Iraq and another one in Denmark. And here's a link about one more in Cairo.

Good. And keep 'em coming.

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Egyptians blame Israel for terror attacks

Even though Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda, has already claimed responsibility for yesterday's terror bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian analysts and commentators are blaming (wait for it) ...Israel. Haaretz reports:

Less than 24 hours after terrorists killed at least 88 people in attacks on the Sinai resort town of Sharm el- Sheikh, Egyptian sources claimed that Israel was responsible for the deadly bombings.

The claims were apparently based on the fact that most of the victims were Egyptian nationals.

Egyptian media analysts, sources in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian parliamentarian Ala Hasnin, in an interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network, all suggested Israel was responsible for the attacks.

An Egyptian analyst interviewed by Al-Jazeera who is associated with extremist elements in the country said it was in Israel's interest to carry out such a terror attack and thus Jerusalem was thus responsible for Saturday's bombings.

...He went on to add that the United States also has a motive to carry out such an attack.
If the United States really wanted to hurt Egypt, we could start by no longer giving it billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid.

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Art gallery may back out of Ground Zero

The Drawing Center is a SoHo-based art gallery which in the past has occasionally featured politically controversial art. I blogged about its plans to set up shop at Ground Zero here.

From issue #47 of Drawing Papers, the Drawing Center's exhibit review, here's a detail from A Glimpse of What Life in a Free Country Can Be Like #6 (2004) by Amy Wilson. It depicts the hooded prisoner from the infamous Abu Ghraib photo hooked up to wires spelling "Liberty":

And here's Homeland Security (2004) by Zoë Charlton, showing a jet airplane diving omimously toward a naked woman's spread legs:
It's not necessary to feel works like these should be banned or censored in general (and in fact I don't) to feel that they're simply not appropriate material for Ground Zero.

Now, activist site Take Back The Memorial cites a New York Post article (registration required) reporting that the Center may abandon those plans.

Catherine de Zegher, its Executive Director, says the Drawing Center won't accept any limitations on the kind of art it can display. With New York Governor George Pataki refusing to tolerate the above sort of controversial works at Ground Zero, that means the Drawing Center probably won't remain among the "cultural organizations" slated to be part of it.

The Post notes, however, that the International Freedom Center is still pushing ahead with plans to build a Freedom Center on the site. That suggests that either it's prepared to accept Pataki's conditions, or it's dismissing them as empty political grandstanding. Unfortunately, I suspect the latter is the case.

What Pataki actually said, back in June, in response to a Daily News editorial about the Drawing Center, was the following:
We will not tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America, denigrates New York or freedom, or denigrates the sacrifice or courage that the heroes showed on Sept. 11.
The IFC may simply take the position that its Freedom Center would do none of those things. That's why it's important for Pataki to make clear that the issue is not simply the potential denigration of America, but the politicization of the space around a somber memorial.

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New York starts useless searches

In the aftermath of the London terror attacks, New York has begun randomly searching the bags of passengers in its own mass transit system. The Washington Post reports:

Police began the arduous process of randomly searching a few of the thousands of bags that passengers carry onto the subways Friday, after New York became the first U.S. city to require such searches in the aftermath of new terrorist explosions in London.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the baggage searches — which will be extended to buses and suburban trains — could continue for weeks, if not months. Seven million people ride the city's buses and subways each day, more than half the nation's daily mass transit riders.
The article goes on to note that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg essentially admits the searches are little more than a psychological gambit designed to make people feel, but not actually be, more secure:
"Clearly, we'll do it for a little while. It's partially designed to make people feel comfortable ... and keep the potential threat away," Bloomberg (R) said in his weekly radio show, as reported by the Associated Press.
And we know the searches will be useless because they'll be done, supposedly, on a random basis:
Police officials took pains Friday to describe the searches as entirely random, hoping to allay fears of racial profiling. "We are looking at backpack size or containers large enough to house explosives that we know have been used in these mass transit attacks," said Paul J. Browne, chief spokesman for the city police. "The protocol would be to pick the fifth backpack in each group of 10. If a Middle Eastern man is number four, he would not get checked."
Very few men of Middle Eastern appearance are actually terrorists, yet the sad truth is that men of Middle Eastern appearance are responsible for the vast majority of terror attacks against Western targets. A search policy designed to actually stop terrorists, rather than to create the illusion of safety, would necessarily focus on people fitting this profile.

New York may feel it would be unconstitutional to profile potential bombing suspects on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and age. Or it simply may feel that doing so would be odious and offensive. Perhaps that's the right decision. But we should have no illusions that its current policy of completely random searches will do anything to improve safety.

Majikthise agrees that the searches will accomplish nothing. When conservatives and liberals both think your policy is stupid, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

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Six percent

In the comments on this post about Muslim terror attacks, Big Ben said:

You admit that you have no way of knowing what percentage of Muslims supports terrorism, and it goes without saying that there are many who do not.
Well, now we have a way. reports (via LGF) that a British newspaper has polled local Muslims about the recent terror attacks in London:
A new poll says about a quarter of British Muslims sympathise with the motives of the London bombers, if not their methods.

And the survey in London's Daily Telegraph shows one-third of British Muslims believe Western society is immoral.

The poll asked Muslims if they felt the July the 7th suicide attacks in which 56 peopled died were justified, and six per cent said they were.

71 per cent said they weren't justified at all, and 11 per cent said they weren't justified on balance.

But asked whether they had sympathy with the feelings and motives of the four British Muslim bombers, 13 per cent said they had a lot of sympathy and another 11 per cent had a little.
A link to the Telegraph's own article about the poll is here. and the results are here:
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Telegraph by public policy research firm YouGov, which claims "a track record as the UK's most accurate pollster."

Looking at only those respondents who said the attacks were "on balance justified", we have a figure of six percent. Of course, that figure is only meaningful in comparison to the percentage of British non-Muslims who think the bombings were justified, but I imagine that level would be close to zero.

Perhaps a different poll would have yielded a different result. In fact, the article says a separate poll, by the Sun, found that 91% of British Muslims "didn't feel the suicide bombings were justified by the Islamic holy book, the Koran". The Sun's article about its poll, conducted by research firm MORI, is here.

It's heartening that the vast majority, 91%, of Sun poll respondents thought the bombings were not justified by the Koran — but that still means 9% either felt they were justified, or couldn't say. That seems consistent with a 6% level of support. So, while acknowleding that it hardly represents the final word on this matter, let's take the Telegraph's 6% figure at face value for now.

However, let's also bear a few things in mind:

•   The 6% figure leaves out the 11% of survey respondents who felt the terror attacks weren't justified "on balance".

•   Some respondents who actually support the attacks may not have felt comfortable saying so to the poll takers.

•   This was a poll of British Muslims. Support for the London attacks may be much higher among Muslims in the Middle East.

•   Muslims who feel that the London terror bombings were not justified may nevertheless feel that other terror attacks, like Palestinian suicide bombings of Israeli civillians, are.

Ignoring all those factors, we're left with six percent of Muslims supporting terrorism. I'll round that down to five, just to be cautious. With one billion Muslims in the world, that level suggests that some 50 million support the London attacks. And for the reasons listed above, the actual number is most likely far greater. While I'm aware and appreciative of the fact that millions of other Muslims reject terrorism, that's still one heck of an extremist fringe we're dealing with.

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Earthquake hits Tokyo

First-hand blog reporting! We just had a huge earthquake here in Tokyo. It hit just now while I was at my computer. I'm fine, and there was no damage to my house, but it was the biggest one I've felt, ever. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that elsewhere in Japan there were injuries and significant damage. Another aftershock is rocking my monitor as I type this sentence.

Here are some early MSM reports: (1), (2), (3), (4). Apparently it was a magnitude 5.7 quake (on the Richter scale, not the Japanese scale) with its epicenter in Chiba prefecture. No risk of a follow-on tsunami is seen, but Narita airport shut down its runways to check for damage.

Bloomberg News now says it was a 6.1 magnitude quake. It also notes that commuter trains and subways throughout Tokyo were stopped when the quake hit, while shinkansen "bullet train" operations were suspended. And after checking for damage, Narita airport has re-opened its runways.

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More London bombings

I've been so preoccupied with the debate here, about whether Islam is more likely than other major religions to inspire violent extremism in its followers, that I neglected to note the second wave of coordinated terror attacks to hit London in the past two weeks.

Thankfully, this round failed to go off as the terrorists planned. Bloomberg News reports:

London police are hunting four "would-be" bombers after three subway trains and a bus were targeted with explosives that failed to detonate yesterday, the second act of terrorism on the U.K. capital in two weeks.

As passengers escaped without injury from Warren Street, Oval and Shepherds Bush subway stations and from a double-decker bus in east London, four suspected terrorists also fled, leaving behind vital evidence, police said.
Sadly, I suspect that the culprits may once again be part of that nefarious gang, A Tiny Percentage Of All Muslims™. However, I remain open to the possibility that the bomb attempts were in fact the work of militant Christian anti-abortionists.

Via LGF, Australia's The Age reports that terrorists struck again just today (Saturday), this time in Egypt:
At least 50 people died when a string of suspected car bombs ripped through hotels and bazaars in the Egyptian Red Sea tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Medical sources said at least 50 people died in the blasts and rescue officials said another 150 were wounded, 120 of them seriously.

Britons, Dutch, Qataris, Kuwaitis and Egyptians were among the casualties, police sources said.

Shaken tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled bomb after bomb, with bodies strewn across the roads.

The rescue official, who asked not to be named, said many wounded were Egyptian workers who had gathered at a cafe in the old market.

He said 17 of the dead were burnt beyond recognition by the explosions, apparently caused by up to seven car bombs planted near hotels and bazaars frequented by tourists.
The article does not mention who carried out or claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, I can't definitively prove that there were no militant Christian anti-abortionists in Sharm el-Sheikh at the time.

The Associated Press reports that a group calling itself "Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Al Qaeda", has claimed responsibility for the Egypt attacks.

And the AP also reports that another Al Qaeda-linked group, the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the most recent London bomb attempts. Authorities are skeptical, however, because the group has made dubious claims of responsibility in the past.

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Are you a state? Take this test and see

Question #1:
Do you have a government with the power to set and enforce policy?

(a) Yes

Blocking roads and stopping buses, Israeli police and soldiers thwarted a march yesterday by tens of thousands of opponents of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
(b) No
In Gaza since Thursday in a bid to draw a line under the unrest, Abbas has so far proved largely unable to assert significant control over Hamas militants in their increasingly chaotic Gaza Strip stronghold.

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Does Pervez Musharraf read my blog?

Riding Sun, July 21: sure would be nice to hear more Muslims saying, "Is it really such a burden to clearly denounce the guilty among us? Especially when our success depends on convincing as many non-Muslims as possible that we are not their enemy, a clear denunciation of terrorism doesn't seem like too much to ask."
PakTribune, July 22:
Addressing the nation on TV and Radio on Thursday President Musharraf in a message to UK PM Tony Blair said, "We strongly condemn terrorism and stand united in war against terrorism. We admit we have a problem with terrorism..."
Hey, it's a start.

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Turnaround time

Next time you take a Tokyo taxi, note that if you flip the advertising pamphlets in the little plastic holder upside-down, you can make the Nido Re-Hair guy look like he's totally bald:

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BoingBoing turning Japanese

Continuing the disturbing trend of my being scooped on cool Japan stories by blogs that aren't particularly focused on Japan, BoingBoing has a veritable bento box full of Japan-related goodness today.

First, they've got a post about a Japanese pop art exhibit at the Japan Society in New York City.

Now, arguably, that's a New York thing, not a Japan thing. And the exhibit's been going on for a few months, so it's not really a "scoop".

But check out this post about an unintentionally hilarious Japanese subway advertisement for The Passion of the Christ on DVD.

Or this post on the little-known Japanese "thorn crotch" self-defense tool.


The Japanese posts just keep coming. Maybe they should change their name to BoinguBoingu.

And another one. I surrender.

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Muslims attack giant teapot

Islam may claim to be the religion of peace, but its followers don't really have a stellar track record of getting along with members of other faiths.

Like Jews:

An Israeli soldier died on Thursday of injuries from a Palestinian suicide bombing in central Israel, raising the death toll from Tuesday's attack to five, hospital officials said.
Or Christians:
Angry mobs in the mainly Muslim city 600 kilometres (375 miles) northwest of Lagos burnt Christian churches and rampaged through the streets stabbing, bludgeoning and burning bystanders to death.
Or Hindus:
Six men thought to be Islamic militants Tuesday stormed a disputed temple complex that is the main flash point for Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, triggering a gun battle with police in which five of the attackers died, authorities said. The sixth man apparently blew himself up.
Or Buddhists:
Suspected Islamic militants beheaded a policeman in Thailand's restive Muslim south, officials said on Wednesday, the tenth decapitation in more than 18 months of unrest but the first such attack on police.
Or even other kinds of Muslims:
Iraq's most powerful Shia cleric has condemned the wave of violence in the country as a "genocidal war" and demanded that the Iraqi government do more to protect its Shia people against Sunni insurgents.
Now (via BoingBoing), the BBC reports that we can add to that list Malaysia's little-known Sky Kingdom sect and its giant teapot:
Arsonists have attacked the base of a small inter-faith sect in Malaysia called the Sky Kingdom.

The sect is noted for building a giant teapot to symbolise its belief in the healing purity of water, and is accused of luring Muslims away from Islam.

A lawyer for the sect, Haris Mohamad Ibrahim, said that about 30 armed men dressed in Arab robes had attacked the commune with Molotov cocktails.
It should be clear by now that militant Muslims aren't just targeting Jews, or Americans, or, indeed, people of any particular nationality or faith.

They're targeting everyone.

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If it sounds too good to be true...

A story in three parts, from Kyodo News:

Wednesday, July 6:

Supermarket chain operator Aeon Co said Tuesday it will sell Taiwanese-made 32-inch liquid crystal display television sets for 100,000 yen for three days from Friday.
Saturday, July 9:
Supermarket chain operator Aeon Co said Friday 10,000 32-inch liquid crystal display television sets, each offered on sale for 100,000 yen, sold out on the first day of the sale.
Saturday, July 16:
Supermarket chain operator Aeon Co. said Friday the 10,000 32-inch liquid crystal display television sets it sold last week for 100,000 yen each were found to have defects in the software that controls their displays.

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The Internet has at last fulfilled its promise that we can watch Pulp Fiction in 30 seconds, as re-enacted by animated bunny rabbits.

(There's more bunny re-enactments of famous films here, by Angry Alien Productions.)

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Chinese general threatens to nuke U.S.

Via Crooks and Liars, the Guardian reports:

A senior Chinese general has warned that his country could destroy hundreds of American cities with nuclear weapons if the two nations clashed over Taiwan.

Major general Zhu Chenghu, a dean at the National Defence University, said he was expressing a private opinion, but his comments, the most inflammatory by a senior government official in 10 years, will fuel growing concerns in Washington about the rise of China.

...Echoing threats last made in 1995, Mr Zhu, who has a reputation as a hawk in Chinese military circles, said his country was ready to sustain heavy casualties in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other heavily populated areas.

"We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian," he said. "Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

Although Mr Zhu said war was unlikely, his proposal that China should adopt a first-strike nuclear option against the US will alarm the Pentagon.
Well, I should hope it would.

Via ChinaDaily, Beijing has emphasized that General Zhu was expressing his "personal views". I suspect China's leadership rather likes having someone like Zhu running around making wild threats, while it remains comparatively calm. Kind of a geopolitical good cop-bad cop routine.

Simon World rounds up reactions to Zhu's remarks. Check here, here, here, and here.

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Islamic group issues fatwah against blogger

NOTE: I can't find any real supporting evidence for this story so far, and at any rate, it seems like it may involve simple death threats, not an "official" fatwah. Still pretty scary, though. See the follow-up below for more information.

Via Gullyborg, Chris, who blogs at The AnarchAngel, claims that a fatwah has been issued against him by an Islamic terror group:

A Fatwah has been issued against me by a known terror group. Corresponding groups have responded indicating that I will be eliminated shortly.

They have my name, address, telephone numbers, and the names and addresses of my friends and loved ones.

The FBI has been unable to tell me of any actionable threat, however they beleive that the threat is real. They have warned me to take the standard anti-terrorist precautions, suitable for Bogota or South Africa not Phoenix.

They are also contacting the people on the list that was distributed, including my mother, my stepfather and step siblings, and the people who worked on Team Infidel with me.

The thousands of hits I've been recieving from the JP domains with blocked referred information are anonymizer proxies used to hide the identities of those viewing my site.

As my resume is public information, my employers or former employers may also be targeted. There is concern that staff at my former employers has fed them my personal and private information as well.

The FBI agents I spoke with clearly indicated that althoguh they had nothing direct or specific to an individual (and thus couldnt justify protective custody), they are very seriously concerned about this threat.
Chris says he's been marked for death because of this post, in which he details how he and a couple of his buddies, calling themselves "Team Infidel", took copies of the Koran and variously shot, urinated on, burned, and exploded them. (Video files are available at the post.)

In the video file of a Koran being exploded, Chris comments:
Well, now. Since y'all seem to think it's perfectly acceptable to strap explosives to your body and blow yourself up in pizzarias and schoolbuses, I thought we would do the same thing to your holy book.
Destroying someone else's holy book may be disrespectful, but Chris doesn't seem to think Islam deserves a whole lot of respect these days. And the fact that a gang of Muslims would apparently mark him for death simply for expressing his opinion shows why.

Chris has posted a response to people who suspect he's making the whole thing up:
Please note, I wasnt contacted or threatened directly. This was not a bluster. No public fatwah announcement was made or press release or vague email or web threats. The FBI wouldnt tell me how they recieved the threat specifically, other than it was from arabic language communications off the internet.
So, we're not exactly looking at a whole lot of supporting evidence here. Chris does link to a critical post on a Muslim-oriented Yahoo! groups message board, but no death threats.

Still, it's not hard to believe that some Muslims would want to kill a guy for disrespecting the Koran. After all, it's happened before.

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Japanese blogger catches MSM distortions

Previously, I cited a Kyodo News report that the Japanese government would begin encouraging people to use their real names when posting material on the Internet.

Now (via Adamu), Japan Media Review reports that Japanese bloggers have shown the initial Kyodo News report to be inaccurate in key respects:

Later Monday, however, an anonymous blogger who calls his Weblog a Diary of a Kasumigaseki Bureaucrat (Kasumigaseki is the Tokyo district where most government offices are located) took the trouble of leafing through the panel's draft report that had been published online earlier in the month and discovered that many of the Kyodo report's descriptions didn't match what the panel actually said in its report.

For instance, the blogger noticed that nowhere in the report did the panel actually advocate calling on people to use their real names in cyberspace, or to drop using screen handles. Rather, it outlined a more subtle argument. It noted that the prevalence of anonymity in Japan has led to an atmosphere in which many feel that it doesn't matter what they do or say in cyberspace so long as they are not caught. To that end, raising the credibility of the Internet in Japan will require an improvement of general public "morals" online. Consequently, the report said, "It is necessary to teach [children] how to interact naturally with each other in cyberspace, using either their real names or some kind of assumed name." Thus, he noted, the Ministry accepts anonymity, so long as it is practiced with good "morals."
Well, that's somewhat less creepy (even if Japan's plan to promote the use of Internet filtering software is apparently still in effect).

JMR goes on to quote Nikkei BP columnist Hiroyuki Fujishiro's reaction to the Kyodo report's misrepresentations:
"What we learned this time," said Nikkei BP's Fujishiro, in response to questions from JMR, "was how irresponsible is the reporting of the existing media (newspaper and television). In addition, bloggers, who are usually critical of the existing media, believed the Kyodo report without even checking its sourcing and on that basis criticized the Ministry. This reveals the problem of media literacy among bloggers, but also the continuing large influence of the conventional media.
So, as a blogger, I made the mistake of passing on a report from a leading Japanese news service without independently verifying its content. Point taken.

In the past, I've been aware that rumors flying around the blogosphere might actually be wild distortions of the truth. But it seems I was remiss in not applying the same level of healthy skepticism to actual wire reports.

Very well. From now on, Riding Sun readers are advised to bear in mind that any mainstream media articles cited here may not necessarily be accurate.

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Well, he must've done something wrong

Liberals have been demanding that White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove be fired over the past week, saying he committed treason by exposing the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

I haven't written anything about the whole Rove story, since I felt I didn't have enough information about it to support a strong opinion. And, as admissions made today by major mainstream news sources indicate, neither did anyone else:

The Washington Post:

But as the story hurtles toward a conclusion sometime this year, there are several elements that remain uncertain. The most important — did anyone commit a crime?
And the New York Times:
So far, there is no proof that Mr. Rove committed any wrongdoing, let alone anything illegal: while he spoke to two journalists about Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. operative whose husband went to Niger on a fact-finding mission about weapons of mass destruction, the accounts so far suggest Mr. Rove merely confirmed what the journalists already knew.
But hey, why let the facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned partisan outrage?

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Dinner with Debito

I had dinner last night with Curzon of Coming Anarchy and Joe of Nichi Nichi, as well as a bunch of other folks, which goes to show that bloggers are not just nerds who sit at home in front of their computers. Sometimes we're nerds who go out for sushi and beer.

The guest of honor was Debito Arudo of, a former American who changed his name from David Aldwinkle and became a Japanese citizen, something which is not easy to do.

Debito is probably best-known for his lawsuit against a bathhouse in Hokkaido that barred foreigners from entering. Of course, since David is a Japanese citizen, he could fairly point out that the bathhouse owner was simply excluding people who didn't "look" Japanese. Debito won the intitial lawsuit, although his victory unfortunately had little impact on racial discrimination by other businesses in Japan.

If you're interested in reading more about a genuine modern social activist, I highly recommend Debito's website, as well as "Japanese Only", his book on the bathhouse lawsuit and discrimination in Japan (available here from's Japan site.)

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How to stop Islamic terrorism

In the wake of last week's London terror bombings, Japan's left-leaning Asahi Shimbun suggests a possible solution to the problem of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism:

Unlike Osama bin Laden and his contemporaries who personally experienced conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the suspects of the London attacks grew up in an industrialized country in a free and open environment. What drove them to commit such dastardly acts?

The Middle East situation and the Iraq war may have provided an incentive. Two slogans are typically chanted: That the United States and Britain invaded Iraq with powerful military forces, causing innocent people unbearable pain and Israel continues to inflict terror on the Palestinians. Perhaps they felt that Islamic culture was under attack.

If we sit back and do nothing, it will be increasingly difficult to contain terrorism.
Sure, those aren't very catchy "slogans". And, if you feel your culture is "under attack", blowing up buses and subway cars full of commuters is a poor way to defend it. But the important thing is that if the U.S. packs up and heads home from Iraq, and if Israel lets itself be pushed into the sea, we'll all be okay. Noted.

Also worth noting is that Japan has shown little interest in whatever root causes motivated its own domestic terrorists.

The BBC weighs in on how to stop Islamic terrorism, and it decides we need beagles. Lots of beagles. (Found via Kathryn Judson.)

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Counter culture

It's just plain embarrassing when Apostropher scoops me on Japanese news items. If he keeps doing it, I am going to be watching closely for interesting developments in North Carolina politics, just to show him up.

Anyway, the 'pos takes note of the latest burst of gratuitous invective from Tokyo's governor, Shintaro Ishihara. The Associated Press reports:

A group of teachers and translators in Japan on Wednesday sued Tokyo's outspoken nationalist governor for allegedly calling French a "failed international language," a news report said.

Twenty-one people filed the lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pay a total of 10.5 million yen ($94,600) compensation for insulting the French language in remarks last October, national broadcaster NHK said.

In their suit, the plaintiffs accused Ishihara of saying: "French is a failed international language because it cannot be used to count numbers."

"It's natural for different languages to have different names for numbers and different ways of counting them, so it's unacceptable for him to insult French in this way," Malik Berkane, who heads a French-language school in Tokyo, told reporters at a news conference.
Now, French numbers can be a bit odd, what with, say, "ninety-eight" being quatre-vingt-dix-huit, or, essentially, "four-twenty-ten-eight." Gets a bit unwieldy. (Then again, the phrase "Four score and seven" worked pretty well for Abe Lincoln.)

But regardless of how cumbersome the French counting system may be, Ishihara is ill-positioned to criticize it. Counting in Japanese presents its own infamous challenges.

The actual numbers themselves are fairly straightforward and predictable. "Two" is ni. "Ten" is juu. "Twenty" is ni juu. And "twenty-two" is ni juu ni. Simple.

But if you actually want to count something, Japanese requires you to add one of a bewildering array of "counters" to the end of those numbers. Sometimes, the counter modifies the number itself. Other times, the number modifies the counter. And yet other times, they both change.

For example, "two", as we have noted, is ni. "Person" is hito. So you might think "two people" is ni hito. And you would be wrong. It's futari. (Except sometimes, when it's ni mei, but let's not go there.)

Jeremy Hedley provides an excellent summary of the fun to be had with Japanese counters here:
Counters in Japanese are so elaborate and obscure that a group of comedians has been able to make a TV show out of them. I don't mean to reinforce stereotypes of Japanese weirdness, but sometimes it can't be helped: here's how it goes.

There are half a dozen guys dressed up like bõsõzoku (delinquent motorcycle gang members) and they sit on souped-up motorcycles that have been set up on a kind of merry-go-round with the camera in the middle. As their merry-go-round rotates, each member comes into view and says their piece. They play a game where you have to aggregate the count of things or objects and then say either the same object or throw out a different one. The next person has to increase the count by one using the correct counter for the object the previous person said.

If someone makes a mistake, a group of sumo wrestlers appears from backstage and beats up the offending player.

I'm not making this up.

The difficulty derives from Japanese having a bewildering variety of counters for different objects. In English we can simply say "one dog," "two dogs"... but in not in Japanese. For smaller animals you count "ippiki, nihiki, sanbiki..." and for larger animals you count "ittõ, nittõ, santõ..." Birds have their own counter: "ichiwa, niwa, sanwa..."

There are counters for long thin things (bottles, pens, neckties), flat things (pieces of paper, towels), larger flat things (tennis courts, ponds), machines (tractors, cameras), small ships, larger ships, planes, hand tools, books, newspapers, letters and forms, large buildings, apartments, houses, vacant lots, events, bundles (spinach, beans), other bundles (flowers, rice), slices, cups or glasses, mouthfuls of something, plates of something, suits, socks, sets of things (tableware, decks of cards), and then a variety of ordinals depending on whether we're talking about first place in a competition, in class, in a list or order, in a generation, and so on apparently ad infinitum.

What's worse is that some counters are pronounced the same as others, but are spelled differently. For example, houses are counted "ikken, niken, sanken..." but vacant lots are counted "ikken, niken, sanken..." with a different kanji for "ken"!

If you ever want to drive yourself to very brink of insanity or beyond by learning another language, Japanese counters are an excellent place to start.
There's also the fact that Japanese counts large numbers differently than Western languages do. Instead of counting by thousands ("I won twenty thousand dollars!"), Japanese counts by ten thousands ("I won two ten-thousand dollars!").

It also counts really large numbers by hundred-millions instead of billions. I have gone to financial results meetings of big Japanese companies, where the executives' comments in Japanese are simultaneously translated into English. People can listen with those one-ear headsets, like at the UN. On one memorable occasion, the professional translator screwed up converting some Japanese numbers (i.e., forty hundred-million) into English numbers (i.e., four billion). She had to go back and restate them, to her great embarrassment.

As Apostropher observes, suing Ishihara over his remark is pretty silly, but the remark itself was silly, too.

Here is the Japanese TV show Jeremy Hedley was talking about. No video clip of the skit in question, unfortunately.

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Japanese ISP's hand over user data

Just days after a Japanese copyright owners' group pushed for a tax on MP3 players to compensate its members for profits supposedly lost to file sharing, the Asahi Shimbun reported that Japan is cracking down on file sharers themselves:

In a first for Japan's beleaguered music industry, five individuals have agreed to pay compensation to five record companies for unauthorized distribution of music on the Internet through file-swapping programs.

According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan based in Tokyo's Minato Ward, the five agreed to pay a total of about 2.4 million yen (about $21,600) to five record companies.

The five individuals expressed remorse and apologized for their illegal activities, the association said Wednesday. They also submitted written promises never again to conduct similar acts that violate copyright laws.
What's interesting is how the record companies got in touch with the file-sharers. Basically, the companies just asked their ISP's to cough up their personal information, and the ISP's did:
Based on the provider liability limitation law, eight record companies asked 13 Internet service providers to disclose information, including names and addresses, of 44 individuals who had been illegally distributing music using file-swapping software in 2004.

The information on nine of the individuals was disclosed.

The record companies sent written complaints seeking compensation from eight individuals. The companies only recently obtained information on the ninth individual.

A lawyer for the record firms met with five of the individuals, who agreed to pay compensation. The amount was based on the number of songs they had made public on the Internet, the association said.

According to the association, the record companies intend to continue negotiations with the three others who have not responded to the complaint. Lawsuits are a possibility, the association said.
Japan's Provider Liability Limitation Law (Japanese text here), enacted in 2002, gave private parties broad powers to force ISP's to disclose users' personal information.

Let's say you're a Japanese ISP. Someone claims one of your customers is infringing upon their rights online. This person demands that you tell them the user's personal details, so he or she can be named in a lawsuit. In a nutshell, under the PL3, you, the ISP, must disclose the information. Apparently, no subpoena, court order, or other independent assessment of the merit of the infringement claim is required.

It's not clear to me why the Japanese ISP's disclosed nine user names, but not the other 35. And, of course, I am not a Japanese lawyer, and I am not familiar with how the PL3 has been interpreted by Japanese courts. But the Asahi article suggests that either courts have been siding with plaintiffs against ISP's, or some ISP's are simply handing over their users' information without even putting up a fight.

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Perfect for cruising around Townsville

Reader Rick Adams passes along the following picture of an unusually-painted Kawasaki Ninja 250:

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Mango tangle

Previously, I blogged about China's attempt to give Taiwan a pair of giant pandas, ostensibly to foster "cross-Straits affinity". Of course, it's difficult to drum up much affinity in a nation you are simultaneously threatening with military action, and Taiwan rejected the gift (although it later seemed to soften its position).

The gift pandas were not China's only goodwill overture. It also proposed opening its market further to fruits grown in Taiwan, like mangoes. However, a recent story from Taiwan's Central News Agency suggests that this gesture is getting an equally cold shoulder:

Last year, Tainan County exported 501 tons of mangoes, worth US$2 million, to Japan. Following the inauguration of two heat/steam fruit-disinfecting facilities in the Chuochen and Yuching townships in early July, exports are expected to grow to 1,500 tons this year, totalling US$10 million, according to the county government.

Asked about China's offer to open its market wider to Taiwan fruits, Su said China is only one export outlet for Taiwan fruits. He added that although China has offered tariff-free treatment for many Taiwan fruits, it is not a good market for high-priced agricultural products. He suggested Taiwan work to make inroads into markets where consumers have more spending power and are more receptive to higher value fruits.
Translation: "Aww... that's so cute that you want to buy our produce, but we'd rather sell it in countries where the people aren't so poor." Ouch.

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Porco Rosso and survivor's guilt

You might have thought it would be impossible to discuss Miyazaki's anime and a failed Navy SEAL mission in the same post, but you're not Steven Den Beste.

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The MP from the Al Qaeda party

Via LGF, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson argues that Britain should deal with Muslim terrorists the way it dealt with the IRA:

The first British response to IRA violence was the worst. The IRA was identified as an enemy which had to be destroyed.

In 1972, the British Army fired into the crowd at a big demonstration in the city of Derry, killing 14 innocent people.

There were undercover killings of IRA volunteers later, and a team of three IRA people were summarily executed when they were caught on an operation in Gibraltar.

All these things did was to convince many people in Northern Ireland that the British Government operated on the same low moral level as the IRA itself.

Fortunately, there was another strategy as well; and this one worked. It was to treat political violence like any other crime.
Of course, firing on crowds of innocent people is counterproductive and morally repugnant. But at the other extreme, the "treat terrorism like any other crime" strategy ignores the fact that terrorism is different from other crimes — precisely because terrorism seeks to achieve political goals. And in practice, the approach that Simpson recommends actually resulted in Britain giving in on key issues as a direct result of Irish Republican Army terrorism.

Robert Pape, an associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, describes Britain's later history with the IRA as one of appeasement:
If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s.

There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords.

If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.
The degree to which Irish terror attacks have succeeded in forcing political change is indeed stunning. Former IRA terrorists have even been elected to the British parliament as members of Sinn Féin. Yet the IRA has never completely abandoned violence. Only a few months ago, in February, it refused to decommission its weapons.

Is this the outcome Simpson wants? A few MP's from the Al Qaeda party, acting as apologists for further atrocities?

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No soup for you

April's anti-Japanese riots in China may have died down, but now (via Fark), the following Reuters story suggests that Chinese are once again carrying the whole anti-Japanese thing too far:

Japanese customers must apologise for their country's wartime occupation of China before getting a seat at a restaurant in former Manchuria or find another place to eat, Japan's Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday.

No Japanese had tried to enter the restaurant in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin since it started the new apology policy and hung a sign that read "Japanese people barred from entry".

"We totally welcome those Japanese customers who can correctly view history," the manager, surnamed Tian, was quoted as saying.

"But as for those customers who still refuse to admit to history, we want to say we don't like them."

Staff at the Western-style restaurant were told to ask Japanese customers who walked through the door to give their views of Japan's 1931-1945 occupation of parts of China, including the northeast, and to turn away those who did not apologise and share the owner's opinions, Kyodo said.
Michelle Malkin reports on the case of Aage Bjerre, a pro-American restaurant-owner in Denmark who has now been jailed for refusing to serve French or German customers during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

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Know your Japanese road signs

Matt at No-sword offers evidence that motorists in Japan don't always obey road signs.

Big Ben, on the other hand, scrupulously follows them.

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Movies, not marketing

This Associated Press story about the the new Fantastic Four movie claims its $56.1 million opening weekend gross heralds the end to Hollywood's summer-movie slump:

The latest superhero movie may have been just fantastic enough to snap Hollywood's longest modern losing streak at the box office.

The comic-book adaptation "Fantastic Four" raked in $56 million during its first three days, apparently helping to end a swoon in which domestic movie revenues had been down 19 weekends in a row compared to last year's.
The article has Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, saying the following:
"Comic book movies, if properly marketed, are exactly what mainstream audiences want to see in their summer movies."
In a separate article, Wired describes the sheer magnitude of Fantastic Four marketing:
Fox has secured more sponsorship partners for Fantastic Four than for any film in the studio's history - including either X-Men movie or even the final chapters of Star Wars. SBC will create Fantastic Four TV, print, and radio ads. Burger King will air its own Fantastic Four commercials for both adults and kids. Kraft will hawk Fantastic Four Lunchables. Chiklis will appear as the Thing in TV spots for Samsung phones, delivering the craven tagline, "It's fantastic!"
It's distressing that Dergarabedian, and Fox itself, put the emphasis on skillful marketing instead of, well, skillful filmmaking. All the marketing in the world can't turn a bad movie into a sustained success. At the most, it can conjure up a big opening weekend.

And sometimes, it can't even do that. Calling Fantastic Four's opening weekend a smashing success is an exercise in lowering the bar, as other recent movies about Marvel super heroes have done much better:

Spider-man (2002)
Spider-man 2 (2004)
X-Men 2 (2003)
The Hulk (2003)
Fantastic Four (2005)
X-Men (2000)
Opening Weekend Gross
$114.8 million
$88.2 million
$85.6 million
$63.1 million
$56.1 million
$54.5 million
(Source: Box Office Mojo.)
Bear in mind, too, that the above figures are not adjusted for inflation. In constant dollars, Fantastic Four would easily fall to the bottom of the list.

In a USA Today article, a Fox executive claims the supposedly stellar performance of Fantastic Four means movie critics, who slammed the film, are out of touch with audiences:
"I don't think reviewers reflect audiences anymore," says Hutch Parker, head of production for 20th Century Fox, which released Fantastic Four. "They don't seem to understand that sometimes audiences are just looking for a popcorn film."
Maybe so, but as its relatively disappointing opening weekend indicates, Fantastic Four isn't it.

Via Defamer, Wm. Steven Humphrey says some of the Fantastic Four's marketing isn't all that good, either.

Defamer notes more botched Fantastic Four marketing here.

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China jails moms who have a second baby

Kyodo News reminds us what kind of people rule China:

Mrs Tao, 29, and her husband always knew there was something funny about the two-story yellow house in Cuxi Village, their hometown in Fujian Province in southern China.

At the house, attached to the township government compound, used to hang the sign "Population School." At some point the sign disappeared.

On April 14, when Tao went to Cuxi for a visit, she discovered what the house was for. That morning, a local family planning officer asked Tao, a former primary school teacher now living in Shenzhen, to see the deputy township chief.

They wanted to know whether rumors were true that she had given birth to a second baby, a violation of China's one-child policy, a measure under former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping to keep the world's largest population in check.

They knew Tao had a 5-year-old girl. Tao denied the second child. The deputy township chief ordered a spot medical check, which showed signs of a recent birth. Suddenly township government representatives she had never met asked her to go with them to the yellow house.
Read the whole thing.

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Ram buffer

The Associated Press reports:

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.
I hereby name this news story "Most likely to be used in a political analogy by op-ed columnists".

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A bit harsh

I am strongly in favor of tough penalties for morotcycle thieves, but even I have to think this, reported in last Thursday's Philippines-based Freeman, is too much:

A man was sentenced to 16 years in jail after Regional Trial Court Branch 6 Judge Anacleto Caminade found him “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of stealing a motorcycle.

On January 2, 2000 at about 12:45 am, together with an unidentified person, Benjamin Lipar allegedly stole a Yamaha RS motorcycle with plate number GY 3531 worth P100,000 [about $2,500 at the time].

When arraigned, Lipar entered a plea of not guilty.

In his testimony, Juanito Siton said he parked his motorcycle about two meters away from a drugstore along Leon Kilat street as he was about to purchase some medicines.

Before he left his vehicle, he said he saw two men wearing crash helmets. When he was on his way to the pharmacy, the two men sped away onboard his motorcycle.

...Siton said Lipar’s small crash helmet was not able to cover his entire face making him recognizable.
Another good reason to wear full-face helmets, I suppose. Still, Lipar is lucky he wasn't in Burundi.

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Kofi Annan's second act?

In the wake of his scandal-plagued tenure as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan seems to be preparing for a second career as a retail magnate:

But in fact, Kofi Collect is not Mr. Annan's backup option; it's a women's fashion brand introduced last year by Japanese clothing company Sanei International.

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Hit by rebels, Nepal bans riding two-up

The BBC reports:

Authorities in Nepal have banned passengers from riding on the back of motorcycles in the capital Kathmandu for security reasons.

A government statement said that the country's Maoist rebels had been using motorcycles to launch attacks.

Some 12,000 people have died in the 10-year Maoist insurgency that is aimed at replacing Nepal's monarchy with a communist republic.

Pillion riding is already banned in other parts of the country.

The BBC's correspondent in Kathmandu says the latest security measure has come amid speculation that rebels could target government installations and security personnel in the capital.
If these guys are ready to do drive-by shootings, does the Nepalese government really expect them to obey a new law against carrying a passenger?

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Japan may get "self-defense military"

The Asahi Shimbun reports:

A Liberal Democratic Party commission approved a set of outlines Thursday that include revising pacifist Article 9 of the Constitution to stipulate Japan's right to possess a "self-defense military," lawmakers said.

Article 9 currently states that Japan will never maintain "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential."
Of course, Article 9 notwithstanding, Japan has long maintained a massively powerful military force in all but name: its jieitai, or Self-Defense Forces.

The proposed constitutional revision, therefore, is largely symbolic. However, it might make it easier for Japan to participate in collective defense with allied nations — for example, to shoot down missiles North Korea fires at America, something Japan had previously said it would not do.

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Mickey Mouse operation

Support straps on the monorail to the Tokyo Disney Sea theme park:

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Official claims Al-Qaeda targeting Japan

Agence France-Presse quotes a Japanese official as claiming that Al-Qaeda is targeting Japan for a terror attack:

Yoshitaka Murata, who heads the National Public Safety Commission, said there "is information that Al-Qaeda is targeting Japan as we host US military facilities."
This wouldn't be the first time Al-Qaeda has had Japan in its sights. Last year, the Associated Press reported on a French Al-Qaeda agent who had been hiding out in Niigata.

Back in 2003, messages sent to Arabic-language newspapers in London, allegedly by Al-Qaeda members, warned of terror attacks against Japan and other nations supporting America's occupation of Iraq.

And the AP also reported that senior Al-Qaeda figure Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, after being captured by U.S. forces, claimed the group had plans to attack Japan during the 2002 soccer World Cup, but could not carry them out because it lacked a sufficient network of operatives in the country.

Finally, this article and this one, both published in January 2004, provide some background on Japan's recent experience with terror threats.

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Why I commute by motorcycle, pt. VI

Reuters has more on the Tokyo Metro's response to yesterday's London terror attacks:

The Tokyo Metro subway system said it was increasing patrols of its stations and had removed all garbage cans as a precaution.

...Japan is especially worried about its transport system, used by hordes of workers who pour into Tokyo from surrounding suburbs each day.

More than 590 million commuters passed through Shinjuku Station, Tokyo's busiest, in 2000 — roughly 1.6 million a day.

But security experts said that, try as Japan might, it was impossible to protect against every eventuality, noting that legal limits on surveillance activities made gathering detailed intelligence more difficult than in some other countries.

"Japan has sent its military to Iraq, the same as England and as Spain, which were both hit, so there's certainly a motive," said Jun Yamazaki, Japan unit president of risk consultancy Control Risks Group.

"But the only way to prevent absolutely everything would be to become a police state."
This post is the sixth in a series about the inconveniences and risks of commuting by train in Japan; previous entries are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I hope the current situation never yields a candidate for Part VII.

AFP has more on how subways are fast becoming the preferred target of terrorists.

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Rich Hall wants his shoes back

The Mainichi Shimbun reports:

Three people suffered injuries early Thursday morning after falling to the bottom of an elevator shaft when they walked through the open elevator doors not realizing that the elevator had failed to arrive, law enforcers said.

Police said that when the doors of an elevator on the first floor of the six-story "Sunshine Chugo" building in Nagoya's Nakagawa-ku opened, two men and a woman stepped inside, thinking that the elevator had arrived.

However, the elevator was still on the fourth floor of the building at the time, and the three, aged between 21 and 22, fell into a 1.5-meter deep hole. They suffered light back and arm injuries in the incident.
(If you don't get the title of this post, then you obviously don't remember this classic Saturday Night Live skit from 1984.)

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Tokyo Metro on alert after London attacks

Like the UK and the US, Japan is a G-8 nation with troops in Iraq. And it's aware that it fits the profile of an al-Qaeda target. The Mainichi Shimbun reports (in Japanese):

My translation: "Responding to the simultaneous terror explosions in London, the Tokyo Metro, which operates the subways, has, as of the evening of July 7th, urged extra vigilance at all posts."

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