February 24, 2008
An H-2A rocket carrying a high-speed Internet satellite named Kizuna was successfully launched from Tanegashima Space Center in Minami-Tanecho, Kagoshima Prefecture, at about 6 p.m. Saturday.
The satellite was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and was launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
The launch schedule was changed three times due to strong winds and the intrusion of a fishing vessel into a sea area declared off-limits for the launch. The rocket was finally launched 95 minutes behind schedule.
The satellite separated from the rocket about 28 minutes after the launch, about 280 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaii islands and was in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. It will go into its scheduled geostationary orbit in about 20 days.
Saturday’s H-2A launch, which cost about 10.9 billion yen, was the eighth consecutive launch of the domestically developed and manufactured rocket since February 2005.
The Kizuna measures three meters by two meters by eight meters and weighs about 2.7 tons. About 52.2 billion yen was spent on its development.
The satellite will be in orbit about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. Its three antennas will enable Internet communication across about one-third of the Earth’s surface, including Japan and Southeast Asia. It is designed to be used in emergencies, such as when terrestrial communication facilities are damaged by a natural disaster, and in remote areas, such as isolated islands, where ordinary high-speed Internet communication facilities are unavailable.
Ninety-one technological demonstration experiments are planned to be carried out with the satellite.
February 20, 2008
South Korean dog cloning firm gets first order for pitbull that saved woman’s life
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean firm is offering to clone pet dogs in cooperation with the scientists who created the world’s first cloned canine, the company said Friday.
Seoul-based RNL Bio said it is already working on its first order from an American woman who wants a clone of her dead pit bull. She was especially attached to it because it saved her life when another dog attacked her and bit off her arm.
The client provided the firm with ear tissue from the dead dog, which she had taken and preserved at a U.S. biotech firm before the dog died a year and a half ago, said company spokeswoman Kim Yoon.
The chances of successfully creating a clone are about 25 percent, Kim said. The firm is charging US$150,000 (€102,400) for the clones, which clients pay only after they receive a new pet.
Cloning work will be done by a team of Seoul National University scientists led by professor Lee Byeong-chun, a key member of disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk’s research team, Kim said. The company will handle marketing.
Most of Hwang’s purported breakthroughs in cloning human stem cells were found to be fake. But the team was found to have successfully created the world’s first dog clone, an Afghan hound named “Snuppy.”
Lee was the main scientist leading the dog cloning. He later cloned more dogs and succeeded in cloning a wolf. Kim, the company spokeswoman, said no other scientists elsewhere had succeeded in creating cloned dogs, and that her company is offering the world’s first commercial dog cloning service.
Lee confirmed the university’s animal cloning clinic would work on the project, but did not elaborate.
RNL Bio plans to eventually focus on cloning not only pets, but also special dogs like those trained to sniff out bombs. Established in 2000, the company produces animal disinfectants and health supplements, while also conducting stem cell research.
February 20, 2008
China’s top Internet search engine, Baidu.com, censured for allegedly spreading racy photos
HONG KONG (AP) — China’s top Internet search engine, Baidu.com, has been censured by a government-sponsored Web watchdog for allegedly helping spread sexually explicit photos that appear to feature several Hong Kong stars.
The photos, which appear to show actor Edison Chen and several female stars performing sex acts or in sexually suggestive poses, are believed to have originated in Hong Kong and have been widely circulated here. News of the scandal has dominated Hong Kong headlines for several weeks.
China, however, keeps tighter watch over the Internet than semiautonomous Hong Kong, and the government-sponsored Beijing Association of Online Media said in a statement on its Web site Tuesday Baidu helped spread the racy pictures in the mainland.
The group said certain key word searches and certain pages on the Baidu site “have become the platform for displaying and spreading these filthy pictures,” demanding that the Web site apologize for its actions.
“While other Beijing Internet companies have boycotted the spread of the racy photos, Baidu still hasn’t implemented effective blocking and obscuring of the photos, and has become defensive and procrastinated, leading to the stagnation of a large amount of pornographic, filthy pictures,” the watchdog said in the statement dated Monday.
Meanwhile, the group praised other Chinese Web sites, such as NetEase.com, Sina.com and Sohu.com for urging its users not to spread the photos.
Baidu said it didn’t have immediate comment on the accusations.
China bans pornography, although the government’s Internet police struggle to block pornographic Web sites based abroad.
The government regularly censors and restricts access to content it considers subversive or politically sensitive, and Chinese Web sites often hire their own censors to eliminate certain content.
China’s online population has soared to 210 million people and could surpass the United States this year to become the world’s biggest, the official China Internet Network Information Center said last month.
China recently said it wanted to exert more control over Internet videos and video-sharing Web sites.
February 20, 2008
Two fishermen were missing after a Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis-equipped destroyer collided with a fishing boat in the Pacific off Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture early Tuesday morning, the MSDF and the Japan Coast Guard said.
The 7,750-ton Atago plowed into the 7.3-ton Seitoku Maru 42 kilometers south of Nojimazaki cape at about 4:10 a.m., according to the officials.
As a result of the clash, the fishing boat’s hull was broken in two, the officials said.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda criticized poor communications within the ministry after learning that Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba did not receive an initial report on the incident until 90 minutes had elapsed.
Among the MSDF’s five Aegis-equipped destroyers, the Atago, which was commissioned in March last year, is the latest version of the destroyer equipped with the advanced radar system, according to the MSDF.
The accident was the first major collision in 20 years between an MSDF vessel and a fishing boat since the Nadashio, an MSDF submarine, hit the Fuji Maru No. 1, a leisure boat carrying anglers, off Yokosuka Port, Kanagawa Prefecture, in July 1988, killing 30 people.
According to the Third Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, aboard the fishing boat were the captain, Haruo Kichisei, 58, of Katsuura, Chiba Prefecture, and his 23-year-old son, Tetsuhiro. Both were missing after the accident, the coast guard said.
JCG officials said they received a report on the incident from the Atago at 4:23 a.m., which reportedly said the Seitoku Maru had been sundered but was still floating. MSDF officers reportedly added that they were unable to locate any of the boat’s crew. It is believed the destroyer plowed into the side of the fishing boat. Abrasions believed to have been produced at the time of the collision were visible on the right side of the Atago’s bow from a Yomiuri Shimbun helicopter.
JCG officials attached a device called an airlifter to the disparate parts of the fishing boat to stop them from sinking, before searching the two interiors for survivors–a search that proved fruitless.
At the time of the accident, there reportedly was a north-northeast wind of about 7 meters per second, waves of about 50 centimeters, and clear visibility.
According to the Kawazu branch of Shin-Katsuura fishermen’s cooperative, the Seitoku Maru set off from Kawazu Port at about 2 a.m. Tuesday with seven other vessels to fish for tuna. The vessels planned to head for waters off Hachijojima island after fishing for mackerel off Izu-Oshima island to use as bait. They were scheduled to return to the port at about 9 to 10 p.m. later the same day.
When the fishermen’s cooperative contacted the Kinpei Maru, one of the other fishing boats, crew members reportedly said they had spotted an MSDF destroyer.
The MSDF Staff Office established a committee to investigate the accident the same day. MSDF officials said the Atago was on normal night duty at the time of the incident.
Under law, to avoid collisions at sea, vessels are supposed to keep to their respective starboard sides, in principle, when cutting across each other. When planned routes mean that crossing paths is inevitable, the vessel that sees the other on its starboard side is required to change its course to avoid a clash.
However, because an operational fishing boat always takes priority, other vessels must move to accommodate the fishing boat.
It is considered highly likely the Atago bore the responsibility to change direction to avoid a collision at the time of the accident. Usually, a ship taking such action would sound its horn as a warning while steering away from the approaching vessel.
But the crew members of the seven fishing boats sailing with the Seitoku Maru said they did not hear a horn sound before the collision occurred.
The Atago, which is 165 meters long and 21 meters wide, has a crew of about 300.
After leaving the MSDF’s Maizuru base in Kyoto Prefecture on Oct. 25, the Atago arrived in waters off Hawaii on Nov. 8. After test-firing SM-2 interceptor missiles, the destroyer headed for Japan and was scheduled to arrive in Yokosuka on Tuesday.
continue from source: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20080220TDY01303.htm
February 18, 2008
A touching story about a Thai woman who was separated from her husband and seven children for 25 years after catching the wrong bus during a regular shopping trip. The bus took her some 2,000 kms north of her home where she was unable to speak the language and no one could understand her dialect. She lived for 5 years as a beggar until she was sent to a homeless shelter. Twenty years later, three visiting medical students recognized her dialect from a song she was singing and they were able to help her to reunite with her family.
February 12, 2008
continue from source: http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/
February 12, 2008
TOKYO — Three people were found dead at a home in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward on Monday afternoon, while a 15-year-old boy found at the scene with his hands cut off at the wrist and the back of his head caved in has fallen into a coma after being rushed to a hospital, police said.
The three are believed to be Toru Sasaki, 52, his wife Kazuko, 49, and Sasaki’s mother Tokuko, 84, while the boy is Sasaki’s son, who is a first-year student in high school, police said.
All were found bleeding, and a bloodstained ax was discovered in the house, according to police.
The boy was quoted as telling the police before he lost consciousness, “My father did it to me,” while a note with blood, believed to have been written by Sasaki, was found in the house, which suggested he would commit murder-suicide.
February 12, 2008
A growing number of pet owners are turning to legal experts for advice on drawing up wills that ensure their beloved companions are looked after in the event of their death.
Under the Civil Code, people cannot directly bequeath assets to pets, so owners have been making wills leaving their estates to nonfamily members on the condition they take care of their pets.
With more pet lovers living alone because of the declining birthrate and aging population, interest in the issue of “asset succession” to pets is expected to grow.
“For some people, a pet is more important than their family,” administrative scrivener Hiroshi Ito said. “There’s extremely high interest in [such] wills.”
Ito, of Taito Ward, Tokyo, says he first had someone call on him over drawing up a will to benefit their pets five years ago. Since then, he has spoken with about 50 people in similar cases.
Under the Civil Code, pets are deemed to be objects, and may not inherit assets. “It’s possible to bequeath assets to pets using the ‘onerous bequest’ system,” Ito said.
An onerous bequest is a method for creating wills for situations such as leaving an estate to a person, but with certain conditions, such as having a person look after parents, or leaving them land in return for taking over a farm.
This method can also be used for pets, and three people to date have drawn up wills in this way.
One was a widow in her 70s who left 15 million yen to an old friend in her neighborhood on condition the friend took care of her dog.
“I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders,” said the woman, who has lived alone since the death of her husband. “[The dog] will be all right if anything happens to me.”
The other two were also elderly people who made wills leaving assets of between 3 million yen and 5 million yen to people on conditions they look after their pets.
To avoid problems, these people had their wills notarized, rather than just drawing up the wills themselves.
They also gave a “memorandum” to the beneficiary of the will setting specific instructions for looking after the pets. These notes state matters such as the number of times a day they should be fed and how often they should be taken for walks.
“With an increase in the number of elderly people living alone with their pets, the sudden death of the owner could, in a worst case scenario, lead to the animal being put down,” Ito said. “Drawing up a will [to care for the pet] would give the owner peace of mind and be good for the pet, too.”
But it is not only elderly people who are consulting legal experts on such matters.
An administrative scriveners office in Kumamoto that has an online consultation service for pet-related inquiries has received requests from two single women in their 30s to draw up draft wills.
One of the women has a dozen or so dogs, and has reportedly made a will entrusting care of several dogs each to a number of friends and colleagues.
But problems are forecast over issue of the actual inheritance.
Masumi Yoshida, a professor at Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and a lawyer with expertise in legal issues regarding pets, says various problems may ensue.
According to Yoshida, people may accept the assets, but not look after the pets; legal heirs and other people may have objections; or the pets may fail to become attached to their new owners.
One measure to counter this may be to specify a testamentary executor who is authorized in advance to make sure the will is adhered to.
The testamentary executor will be able to nullify the bequest if an heir does not keep a promise or if the type of care the heir is requested to give is unreasonable.
However, the definition of “care” is ambiguous.
“It’s true that there is an increased need for [such wills], but people should refrain from drawing up wills irresponsibly,” Yoshida said. “As well as properly checking out beforehand whether a person can really take care of pets, it’s necessary to decide beforehand the details of care [in the will], including what to do if a pet falls sick or there’s an emergency.”
February 12, 2008
PERTH, Australia (AP) — Heath Ledger’s family joined celebrities and hundreds of other mourners Saturday to bid farewell to the actor at a memorial service in his Australian hometown that began with a haunting Aboriginal dirge.
The star’s former fiancee, actress Michelle Williams, arrived with a police escort in a six-car cavalcade with his parents, Kim Ledger and Sally Ledger-Bell, and sister Kate Ledger at Penrhos College, a Uniting Church girls’ school, after several hundred mourners arrived for the service in his hometown of Perth.
An emotional Williams, wearing dark glasses and a white dress with black trim, was not accompanied by Matilda, her 2-year-old daughter fathered by Ledger. She was ushered in clutching the arm of Ledger’s older sister.
Australian actress Cate Blanchett, who starred with Ledger in the Bob Dylan bio-flick “I’m Not There” – a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress – was among the celebrities, who included actors, directors and sports stars.
Blanchett spoke about the times she shared with Ledger in New York and Los Angeles, Barbara Scott, a state lawmaker, told reporters after the 75-minute service.
A video tribute compiled by family and friends included footage from Ledger’s films and of his daughter.
Among the first to arrive at the high-security ceremony was Australian model Gemma Ward, a former girlfriend of Ledger, the 28-year-old “Brokeback Mountain” star who died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment last month.
Mourners filed through a screened side gate where two women dressed in black checked their identification.
The music reflected Ledger’s eclectic tastes: Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
“It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful West Australian, an outstanding guy with great talent,” said Scott, a state lawmaker.
Local musician Levi Islam told reporters outside that he opened the service in a theater by playing an ancient Aboriginal dirge on a didgeridoo, a traditional wind instrument.
Kim Ledger said the service would be followed by a private funeral in Perth. He appealed for privacy and did not disclose the time or location.
“The funeral will be very, very private and there will only be 10 people there, immediate family and nobody else,” Kim Ledger said at a news conference outside the house of his former wife, Ledger-Bell.
“It’s a pretty sad time. We’re finding it difficult to cope by ourselves, let alone cope with everybody around the world,” he said.
“Having said that, we do really appreciate the outpouring and the emotional support from all over the globe,” he added.
Ledger’s death on Jan. 22 spawned outpourings of grief from New York to Hollywood to Perth, a small, remote city on the edge of the Outback in Australia’s southwest.
The New York city medical examiner announced Wednesday that Ledger died from the effects of taking six types of painkillers and sedatives.
Family members returned home from the United States this week to lay Ledger to rest following a memorial service in Los Angeles last weekend.
Mourners gathered after the service for a wake at a colonial-style waterfront restaurant at Cottesloe Beach, a resort on Perth’s coast that was a favorite spot of the actor’s.
Williams, 27, and Ledger became a couple during filming of “Brokeback Mountain,” in which the two costarred as husband and wife. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the film.
They later moved to New York, where Matilda was born in October 2005.
Experts say gyoza cases exaggerated / Believe many people mistakenly attributed symptoms to food poisoning
February 12, 2008
More than 2,700 people have reported suffering health problems in the wake of a report that pesticide-contaminated gyoza produced in China had sickened 10 people in Japan, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Yet since the original 10 cases, no further examples of organophosphate poisoning have been confirmed.
Experts say mild cases of poisoning by minute traces of organic phosphorus may have been overlooked. But they believe in most cases people are probably mistakenly attributing their symptoms to food poisoning.
On Jan. 30 it was learned that 10 people from three families in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures had developed food poisoning symptoms after eating frozen gyoza dumplings made in China. An organophosphate pesticide, methamidophos, was found in the gyoza and on the packaging.
According to the health ministry, 2,745 people have complained to public health centers of feeling sick after eating the same product or similar ones. Of these, 884 visited a doctor.
On Feb. 1, two days after the initial report, the Shizuoka prefectural government received a report from a health center in the prefecture of a suspected case of organophosphate poisoning.
According to the health center, a woman in her 50s reported suffering from nausea and numbness of the tongue after eating Chinese-made frozen food.
The prefectural government reported the case to the health ministry and to the Tokyo metropolitan government, which oversees JT Foods Co., the firm that imported and distributed the frozen food and gyoza involved in the 10 poisoning cases. The metropolitan government considered holding a press conference over the suspected case, but a blood test showed it was not organophosphate poisoning.
By Feb. 2, three days after the initial news report, 946 people complained of health problems, with more than 2,000 having reported problems by Tuesday.
More than 5,000 people have now consulted with a health professional or inquired about Chinese frozen products.
Some of those who saw doctors were admitted to hospitals over their health problems, though local public health centers in each case found patients were actually suffering from gastroenteritis or an existing condition, rather than food poisoning.
In Aomori Prefecture, a co-op that sold and recalled products, including the gyoza brand involved in the original case, called 9,220 households that had purchased the product and asked if any members of their family had become ill after eating Chinese frozen food.
Many respondents reported examples of food poisoning, leading the prefectural government to report 168 suspected cases to the health ministry.
However, when co-op employees visited these households, many people offered additional information suggesting they may already have had some sort of existing health problem.
Shinji Koike, an official at the co-op, said, “We may have worried people, but we feel relieved now.”
According to Toyama University Prof. Hiroshi Okudera, who treated victims in the 1994 sarin nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, victims of organophosphate poisoning suffer contraction of the pupils (miosis), dizziness and vomiting.
“Unless you check for miosis, it’s hard to tell [organophosphate poisoning] from gastroenteritis,” he said. “I’m sure there were people who felt sick but decided not to go see the doctor. Some of them might have suffered mild poisoning.”
Susumu Oda, a professor at Tezukayamagakuin University who specializes in psychiatry, said, “As concerns over Chinese-made food have been growing for some time, and with the reports of food poisoning, there may have been some cases of autosuggestion, where people thought they had been poisoned [but hadn’t].”