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Random Japan

By: nagaura Saturday September 14, 2013 10:26 am

JR Kyushu shows off new luxury train
Kyushu Railway Co. on Friday unveiled the ¥3 billion Seven Star luxury sleeper train ahead of its inaugural run on Oct. 15.

The event, held at a rolling stock factory in Kitakyushu, followed the signing a day earlier of a charter service contract with a Hong Kong travel company, the first overseas client for the new train, which boasts stylized interior pieces and furnishings.

JR Kyushu allowed the media to see the first three of the seven cars of what it calls the nation’s first cruise train. It will depart from, and terminate at, Hakata Station in Fukuoka, taking passengers through scenic spots in Kyushu as part of a one-night, two-day package, or a three-night, four-day package.

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KIDS THESE DAYS
Cops in Tokyo arrested five teenagers for throwing dozens of fireworks at a homeless man in Edogawa-ku. One of the boys said he and his friends “wanted to get a thrill from making a homeless person angry and making him chase us.”

Officials at the International Astronomical Union have formally recognized an asteroid discovered by a trio of female Japanese middle school students in 2009.

The transport ministry says at least 18 people fell off train platforms last year because they were too absorbed in their cellphones to notice their surroundings.

The situation has led officials to try and come up with ways to deal with the scourge of aruki sumaho—smartphone walking.

Meet the dry cleaner they call “god”

Master Blaster
There’s so much talk over the level of customer service in Japan that you’d expect the locals to become desensitized to it before long. But every once in a while, a business raises the bar so much that even Japanese people can’t believe it.

One such business can be found in the posh Azabu-Juban area of Tokyo: a dry cleaner called Rejouir that is the one place that will take a paint-stained Hermes coat when no one else would dare try. One after another, customers including boutiques and other cleaners walk away satisfied. To those people, Rejouir’s president Takeshi Furuta is often referred to as “Kami” (god).

Yes, You Bet

Now Meet Burning Tire

Is That A Bridge In Your Pocket

Romanized Japanese on signs to be replaced with English

September 12, 2013

By SATOSHI KIMURA/ Staff Writer
The government announced new guidelines Sept. 11 that call for replacing Romanized Japanese text written on traffic signs across the nation with English to make them easier for foreigners to understand.

According to the transport ministry’s new guidelines issued to regional development bureaus, proper names such as place names must be written using the Roman alphabet, while common nouns such as “school” and “station” must be written in the English language.

For example, “Kanda Eki Nishiguchi” (West exit of Kanda station) will be replaced by “Kanda Sta. West”.

 

Random Japan

By: nagaura Saturday September 7, 2013 6:16 am

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Move over latte art, it’s all about toast art now!
The newest food decorating trend to come out of Japan since latte art is, surprisingly, toast art. But this isn’t just any plain old toast with butter and maybe a swirl of jam that vaguely resembles a smiley face (but I still appreciate all those years of happy toast, mom!). No, the toast decorations created by Twitter user ginkei_18 are embellished with popular anime characters from Free!, Uta no Prince-sama, Gin Tama and Attack on Titan. Even if you don’t recognize any of the characters, ginkei_18′s ability to skillfully draw directly onto a piece of bread is amazing.

First up, characters from Free!, an anime television series that follows the members of a high school swimming club:

stats

¥100
Price of a can of volcanic ash being sold in Tarumizu City in Kagoshima, the site of the Sakurajima volcano

150
Number of shops targeting “fashion-conscious young women and elderly shoppers” to be opened over the next two years by retailing giant Istean Mitsukoshi

1 million
Preorders for Sony’s PlayStation 4 console, which will be released on November 29

FOREIGN AFFAIRS


A Renoir oil painting that had been stolen from a home in Setagaya in 2000 was sold at an auction in London for £1.05 million. Officials at Sotheby’s say they had no idea the painting was hot and vowed to look into the matter.

A 42-year-old Detroit native has become the first foreign firefighter in the history of Ibaraki.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted dignitaries from about 40 Muslim nations for an iftar dinner—the traditional meal that breaks the sunrise-to-sunset fast during Ramadan.

South Korean officials expressed displeasure with the results of a Cabinet Office survey that found 60.7 percent of Japanese view the Takeshima islets as Japan’s territory.

Just Mind The Radiation

No, Not That One

Ghost House?

Miyazaki says career creating anime films finally over

September 06, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Internationally acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki formally announced his retirement at a jam-packed Sept. 6 news conference in Tokyo–and this time he said he was serious.

“My time for creating feature-length animation movies has come to an end,” said the 72-year-old Miyazaki at a news conference attended by about 600 reporters representing domestic and foreign media organizations, some coming from as far away as Italy and France.

Random Japan: Jojo Train

By: nagaura Saturday August 31, 2013 5:31 am

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Photos of the JoJo train are finally here and it’s not just the outside that looks cool
Earlier this week, we told you about the Yamanote Line train that will be decked out with the characters from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle (coming to PS3 on August 29). At the time, we could only provide you with a few artist renditions of what the train might look like. But now, may we proudly present to you 31 photos of the actual JoJo train, inside and out!

On August 26 at 5:57am, the first Yamanote Line train of the day pulled out of Osaki Station. This wasn’t the ordinary lime green-striped train that thousands of commuters have come to know, this one was special. The exterior, interior, monitors, and even the advertisements hanging from the carriage ceiling were covered in JoJo. On each side of the doors, the very same characters from the manga were proudly displayed for all to see.

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stats
2,000
Number of foreign professionals that the government hoped to attract via a new “points-based preferential immigration system” introduced last May

17
Number of foreigners who have taken advantage of the program

1.13 million
Lightning strikes in Japan last year, according to private weather company Franklin Japan

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN


A Cabinet Office survey has revealed that 71 percent of Japanese people are “satisfied or somewhat satisfied” with their lives—the first time since 1995 that the figure has topped 70 percent.

Toshie Tanaka, 47, became Japan’s first female prefectural police chief when she assumed the top cop job in Iwate.

A high school baseball player in Aomori taking part in the Koshien summer tournament “tackled and overpowered” a knife-wielding man who was attacking a woman in the stadium parking lot.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan sued current PM Shinzo Abe for defamation over a claim made by Abe that Kan lied about making “the courageous decision to pump seawater” into a nuclear reactor during the crisis at Fukushima in 2011.

And Unaware

What’s In The Closet?

Judo

Ainu struggle to find solution for hundreds of unidentified skeletons
August 31, 2013
By KENJI IZUMI/ Staff Writer
SAPPORO--Wearing robes displaying intricate designs, an indigenous Ainu group offered flowers and prayers for the souls of more than 1,000 ancestors during a memorial ritual called Icarpa.

“We want to inherit our ancestors’ thoughts without forgetting the history of hardships and humiliation the Ainu people have suffered,” Tadashi Kato, executive director of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, said in his speech at the Icarpa on Aug. 2.

The Ainu say the humiliation continues to this day concerning those same ancestors. Their skeletons had been dug up from graves for research purposes and were handled in a slipshod manner.

Random Japan

By: nagaura Saturday August 3, 2013 10:46 am
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NEWS FROM THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

  • A research team led by a professor at Keio University has found mice can tell the difference between paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian.

  • In response to wild deer causing damage to local plant species in the Oze marshlands, Fukushima officials say they’ll start “shooting the animals with high-pressure water guns.”
  • Japanese scientists have determined a class of insecticides aka neonicotinoids may be responsible for colony-collapse disorder, which is threatening the global honeybee population.
  • Police in western Tokyo arrested a man who ran a health clinic despite having no medical license. None of the man’s 8,000 “patients” reported any ill effects from the treatment.

stats

  • 70Percent of Japanese who support the idea of “preparing a document in advance specifying their wishes on medical treatments,” according to the health ministry
  • 3Percent of Japanese who have prepared such documents
  • 38.2Percent of Japanese workers who are considered “non-regular” employees—a record—according to the internal affairs ministry

Channeling His Inner 


Adolf



Living In Praise 


Of War

Hello


My Name Is

A Japanese perspective on traveling in the U.S.

By Preston Phro

TRAVEL AUG. 03, 2013 – 09:23AM JST 

Today, we bring you a Japanese perspective on visiting the United States of America. While many Japanese people enjoy visiting the United States, there are some things that can end up being a bit… disappointing.

For most Japanese people, “America” means steak, pizza, cheeseburgers and other delicious foods. And considering how big of a deal food is in Japanese culture, this isn’t a bad thing at all. On the other hand, there are a few things that the average Japanese traveler abroad might wish were different. One of our Japanese friends recently took a trip to the U.S., and, though he generally had a great time, there were a few things that could have been better.

Six In The Morning Saturday August 3

By: nagaura Saturday August 3, 2013 5:46 am

U.S. travel alert comes amid al Qaida glee over prison breaks

 

The State Department issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens Friday as it suspended operations in 21 Muslim countries in response to “current information” that suggests al Qaida-affiliated militant groups might strike within the next month.

Apart from mentioning that an attack might occur in or emanate from the Arabian Peninsula, which is home to one of the most active al Qaida branches, the State Department’s announcement gave few details on the nature of the threat and didn’t provide specifics about when or where such an attack might take place.

“They may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the State Department’s travel alert said.

Future of Italy’s coalition hangs in the balance as Berlusconi plays the victim

Debate rages following conviction for tax evasion

Paddy Agnew

In the wake of the tsunami that hit Italian politics on Thursday night, when former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was adjudged guilty of tax evasion via his Mediaset TV company, the future of the 100-day old Enrico Letta-led PD-PDL coalition government now hangs in the balance.

That, at least, would appear to be the obvious conclusion to be drawn from a tempestuous day after yesterday, marked by bellicose noises on the part of Berlusconi’s PDL party, by a relative silence from the centre-left PDs and by reassuring tones from Letta.

At a meeting with PDL parliamentarians last night, Berlusconi again touched on reform of the justice system, even suggesting that if it could be enacted immediately, then parliament should be dissolved and early elections called.

Tackling Hardship: Beating FIFA at Its Own Game in South Africa

By Antje Windmann

‘Amandla’ is a relatively modest, German-run football school in a Cape Town township. But unlike many well-funded projects in South Africa sponsored by FIFA since the last World Cup, the camp changes the lives of thousands of children.

Cape Town becomes a hellish place just behind Table Mountain. Only a few kilometers from the villas of the wealthy is Khayelitsha Township, a sea of mildewed corrugated metal huts and portable toilets spread across the dusty landscape.

The township is home to more than one-and-a-half million people. Many are unemployed and hungry, and one in three residents is HIV positive. There is no running water, but there is plenty of violence in Khayelitsha, which has one of the world’s highest crime rates. Muggings and rapes are part of everyday life in the slum, which sees an average of 12 murders a day


North Korean children able to inherit from South’s citizens

August 3, 2013

Choe Sang-Hun

The Supreme Court of South Korea has ruled for the first time that North Korean children of a South Korean citizen have the right to inherit their deceased parent’s property.

The verdict set a legal precedent with far-reaching implications on the divided Korean peninsula, as it opened the way for what could be a flood of similar lawsuits. Millions of Koreans were separated from their families after the peninsula was divided at the end of World War II in 1945, and the border was sealed with the 1950-53 Korean War.

Many of those living in the South died without meeting their children, spouses or siblings in the North again or finding a way to bequeath their fortunes to those living there. There is no telephone, email or letter exchange allowed between the two Koreas.

After 8 defiant years, Ahmadinejad leaves Iran isolated and cash-strapped

Iran’s most divisive president since the 1979 revolution initially won praise, but his successor is now tasked with undoing the damage Ahmadinejad wrought at home and abroad.

By Staff writer

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today ascended to the global stage one last time, capping his tumultuous eight-year presidency with an anti-Israel harangue that made no mention of the political damage he is widely perceived as inflicting upon the Islamic Republic and its leadership.

Damage control from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s legacy at home and abroad is sure to absorb much of the early work of the incoming centrist President-elect Hassan Rohani, who brings with him expectations of sweeping change.

The cleric and former nuclear negotiator has promised an economic turnaround, easing Iran’s isolation, nuclear “transparency,” and above all, moderation. He will be sworn into office on Sunday.

Could cricket have a big future in China?

This weekend, sports fans in England and Australia are likely to be gripped by the Ashes. In China, they are more likely to be watching basketball. But could that be about to change?

“It’s a paddle. For a canoe. Isn’t it?” We had just shown a cricket bat to a lady in a park to see if she knew what it was.

Night was falling, and many people were strolling among the trees, enjoying cooler evening temperatures. From nearby came the rousing chorus of revolutionary songs, sung by dozens of men and women, who could remember different times in China.

Six In The Morning Friday August 2

By: nagaura Friday August 2, 2013 5:31 am

Fewer resources, greater stress, more disasters, more violence: Climate change linked to conflict among people and societies

Review of 61 accounts concludes that personal disputes and wider civil conflicts increase significantly with weather changes

A warmer world with more droughts and other climate-related disasters is likely to lead a substantial increase in violent conflict between both individuals and entire societies, a major study has found.

A review of 61 detailed accounts of violence has concluded that personal disputes and wider civil conflicts increase significantly with significant changes to weather patterns, such as increases in temperature and lack of rain, scientists said.

Even rather moderate shifts away from the norm result in marked increases in violence according to the study which concluded that the predicted 2C rise in average global temperatures this century could lead to a 50 per cent increase in major violent conflicts such as civil wars.

JUSTICE

Chilean prosecutors drop charges over 2010 mine collapse

The Chilean public prosecutor’s office has decided not to press charges against the owners of a mine that collapsed in 2010, trapping 33 workers underground for 70 days. Miners have responded with anger.

After a three-year probe into the mine collapse, the public prosecutor’s office said the investigation had left it “unconvinced” of the need to file charges.

One of the miners, Mario Sepulveda, told the AP news agency that the decision was “a disgrace to Chile’s justice system.”

Violence rolls on in cutthroat world of Bangladeshi politics

August 2, 2013 – 1:25PM

Ben Doherty

South Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media

Dhaka, Bangladesh: A prominent ruling party politician shot dead in the street. His assassin killed a day later by “crossfire” as he is taken into custody. A political party thrown out of elections, sparking riots and vehicles being burnt.

Barely more than a typical week in Bangladeshi politics.

Violence, by the hands of an angry mob, or via the barrel of a gun, is how power is exercised here.

This week, youth wing leader with the governing Awami League, Reazul Haque Milki, was shot dead outside a shopping centre by a factional rival from his own party.

Mursi backers plan fresh rallies in defiance of Egypt police

Sapa-AFP | 02 August, 2013 10:12

Supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Mursi urged fresh rallies, raising fears of renewed violence as police prepared to disperse their Cairo sit-ins amid international appeals for restraint.

The call came as US Secretary of State John Kerry said the military’s removal of the Islamist Mursi – Egypt’s first democratically elected president – had been requested by millions.

Kerry’s comments are the closest Washington has come to publicly embracing the July 3 coup that toppled Mursi, as European diplomats held talks in Cairo with the interim government and Mursi’s backers seeking a way out of the impasse.

Kerry told Pakistan’s Geo television: “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence.”

Puerto Rican leaders disagree on island’s political future

Forget the logistical nightmare of adding another star to the American flag – Puerto Rican politicians argued Thursday over whether their constituents want statehood in the first place.

The commonwealth’s governor and congressional delegate, as well as a leader of the independence movement, didn’t agree about Puerto Rico’s future during a

hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I think our big challenge is to define what the options are – the legitimate options – and how would that be defined on a ballot,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said after the hearing. She said she’d be willing to work with Puerto Ricans to push for statehood if she thought there was a “united front.”

Puerto Rico’s congressional delegate supports statehood, while Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla advocates a form of “enhanced commonwealth,” a label he did not define when pressed by senators.

Traditional technology looms large for luxury companies

But James Sleater, co-founder of Cad and the Dandy, is doing his best.

At a party to mark the arrival of Savile Row’s newest resident, he is dressed in a suit with a difference – one made in-store on a 200-year-old loom.

The suit was created to showcase the company’s in-house talent, but it is unlikely the loom will be fired up again.

SIx In The Morning Thursday August 1

By: nagaura Thursday August 1, 2013 5:12 am

Egypt police told to break up rallies

Interim leadership says “gradual steps” will be taken to disperse crowds amid continuing pro-Morsi protests.

Last Modified: 01 Aug 2013 06:50

Egypt’s interim government has authorised police to break up protests which have been continuing since Mohamed Morsi was removed from power, saying that officers will take “gradual steps” to disperse crowds.

Weeks-long rallies in support of the deposed president extended in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares in Cairo early on Thursday morning, despite the interim leadership’s warning.

“The continuation of the dangerous situation in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, and consequent terrorism and road blockages are no longer acceptable given the threat to national security,” a statement from the interim government said on Wednesday, adding that it has told police to take “all necessary measures” to disperse crowds.

Congo’s rare mountain gorillas could become victims of oil exploration

WWF warns of environmental disaster and permanent conflict if British firm begins drilling for oil inside Virunga national park

The Virunga national park, home to rare mountain gorillas but targeted for oil exploration by a British company, could earn strife-torn DR Congo $400m (£263m) a year from tourism, hydropower and carbon credits, aWWF report published on Thursday concludes.

But if the Unesco world heritage site that straddles the equator is exploited for oil, as the Congolese government and exploration firmSoco International are hoping, it could lead to devastating pollution and permanent conflict in an already unstable region, says the conservationbody.

Congo has allocated oil concessions over 85% of the Virunga park but Soco International is now the only company seeking to explore inside its boundaries. This year Unesco called for the cancellation of all Virunga oil permits.

Uruguay comes one step closer to legalising marijuana after President Jose Mujica’s bill goes through congress

The bill would make Uruguay the first country to have a government led legal marijuana industry

 

Uruguay’s proposal to create a government controlled legal marijuana industry has made it halfway through congress, giving President Jose Mujica a long-sought victory in his effort to explore alternatives to the global war on drugs.

All 50 members of the governing Broad Front coalition approved the proposal in a party line vote just before midnight on Wednesday, keeping a narrow majority of the 96 lawmakers present after more than 13 hours of passionate debate over the issue of legalisation.

The measure will now go to the Senate, where Mr Mujica’s coalition has a larger majority and the bill is expected to be passed within weeks, making Uruguay the world’s first nation to create and regulate a legal marijuana market.

HUMAN RIGHTS

No release in sight for Tymoshenko


For the last two years, Ukraine’s ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been sitting behind bars. Western governments have demanded her release, but further charges against her make that unlikely.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the detention of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was unlawful and condemned the imprisonment. On Wednesday (31.07.2013), that ruling will become legally binding, after the Ukrainian state decided not to file an appeal against the verdict.

Tymoshenko had filed a suit with the court against the decision of a Kyiv judge who had her arrested while she was on trial. Later, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and fined millions for abuse of office. She was found guilty of signing gas contracts with Russia without government approval. Two years later, Tymoshenko is still in prison.


Al-Qaeda leader vows to break out Muslims held in Guantanamo following similar terror jail breaks in Middle East

August 1, 2013 – 11:25AM

Carol J. Williams

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has vowed in a video released Wednesday to break out Muslim prisoners from US penitentiaries and the heavily fortified compound for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The blustery threat to retaliate for US “crimes” against al-Qaeda warriors was probably inspired by recent attacks on prisons in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan that freed more than 2000 detainees, many of them allied with the global terrorism network that has been headed by Mr al-Zawahiri since the 2011 assassination of its founder, Osama bin Laden.

But security at the crude prisons breached in the Middle East by al-Qaeda-aligned suicide bombers over the last week pales in comparison with the US detention sites’ concentric rings of armed guards, concrete walls and electrified, concertina wire-topped fences.

Middle East

     Aug 1, ’13

Syrian war reaches explosive stage
By Victor Kotsev 

For many Syrian rebels, the unthinkable happened this week, when a key neighborhood of the centrally located city of Homs was recaptured by the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The fall of Homs, dubbed the rebel “capital,” seems inevitable, and while that will not end the brutal civil war in the country, it will almost certainly usher in a new stage. 

Syria’s fragmentation can no longer be contained inside the country. To the north, the Kurds are threatening autonomy and fighting viciously with al-Qaeda affiliates at the Turkish border – the Turkish army, under a partial media blackout, was also drawn into these heavy three-way exchanges. To the south, Israel is at guns

drawn, and periodically launches an air strike or two into Syria proper. 

Six In The Morning Wednesday July 31

By: nagaura Wednesday July 31, 2013 5:22 am

Julian Assange says Bradley Manning verdict is ‘dangerous precedent’ as whistleblower faces 136 years in prison despite aiding the enemy acquittal

Charge carried possible life sentence, although he will now be sentenced after convictions on lesser charges of espionage and theft

 

Bradley Manning, the former military intelligence analyst who gave classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010, was acquitted of aiding the enemy, the gravest charge laid against him by the US government. He was, however, found guilty of 19 other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.

 

Delivered by Judge Denise Lind at the Fort Meade base, the acquittal on the aiding the enemy charge was a large if somewhat symbolic victory for the defence and to Manning supporters worldwide. All the other guilty verdicts – including six on charges of espionage – still mean that Manning faces spending the rest of his life in prison.

 

 

 

 

Afghan civilian casualty numbers jump by quarter in first half of 2013

UN records 1,319 killed and 2,533 injured, with landmines and battles between Afghan forces and insurgents mainly to blame

The number of civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan rose by a quarter in the first six months of this year, according to the United Nations.

Homemade Taliban landmines are still the deadliest threat to ordinary Afghans, and the insurgents caused around three-quarters of all recorded civilian losses and injuries, said the UN in a report that charts rising violence in the wake of Nato troops’ accelerating departure from the country.

But there was a sharp increase in civilians harmed in ground battles between Afghan government troops and insurgents, the second leading cause of casualties and a worrying new trend as fighting intensifies and insecurity spreads.

Turks harbour mixed feelings about Erdogan in wake of Gezi protests

The big rallies may be over but unease at the PM’s growing power still lingers

Mary Fitzgerald

 

As the sun sets over Istanbul, hundreds sit cross-legged along Istiklal Caddesi, its busiest pedestrian street, preparing for iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

It is a rather incongruous picnic: plates of food are laid on the ground as curious tourists walk past. Just a few metres away, scores of riot police stand watching.

Now and then a chant goes up from those gathered for the makeshift iftar: usually references to the clashes that erupted on nearby Taksim Square in late May when police moved on demonstrators protesting plans to redevelop an adjoining park. “This is a symbolic iftar,” says Ahmet, a student who took part in the initial demonstrations. “We’re here to make a statement. Our protest continues despite everything.”

China airport bomber arrested: lawyer

July 31, 2013 – 12:54AM

A disabled man who bombed Beijing airport to protest at police brutality has been formally arrested, his lawyer says, in a case that highlights popular resentment towards low-level authorities.

Ji Zhongxing, a 33-year-old wheelchair-bound former driver who said a 2005 beating left him paralysed, set off a small explosion on July 20, destroying his hand and injuring an officer.

He was arrested on Monday on suspicion of bombing, his lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan told AFP, adding that the act carried a potential sentence of three to 10 years’ jail because it caused little damage.

Long lines and bated breath as Zim waits for Mugabe’s vote

31 JUL 2013 10:00MMANALED MATABOGERAY NDLOVU

Robert Mugabe is still to vote after Morgan Tsvangirai cast his ballot while Zimbabweans queue outside polling stations countrywide.

Elections kicked off to a smooth start in Harare and neighbouring townships on Wednesday, as people prepared to cast their vote for a new government. Zanu-PF president Robert Mugabe is expected to cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in his hometown Highveld just outside the capital city, Harare, while Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai cast his vote just before 11am.

In Mbare, an overpopulated township on the outskirts of Harare, voters commended this year’s peaceful elections and what by this morning appeared to be an efficient start to the big day. Polling stations opened at 7am. Two hours was the maximum time most voters spent standing in the queue.

Douglas Kupara voted at the biggest polling station in Mbare after waiting on a snaking queue from 5.30am until just after 8am. “It’s amazing what’s going on today,” he said. “The weather is calm, everybody is happy and wants peace.” It took Kupara less than five minutes inside the voting tent to cast his vote.

How socially inclusive is Latin America?

For the second year, Americas Quarterly has ranked Latin American countries and the United States based on social inclusion, sifting through multiple data sets for 16 nations, including variables like access to education, housing, and employment, as well as basic political, civil, and human rights. Here are some of the highest and lowest ranking countries and emerging trends:

Ezra FieserCorrespondent

1. Why ‘social inclusion?’

The social inclusion index – which ranks countries based on how they score on each of the 21 variables – seeks to provide a picture of progress that goes beyond economic growth and poverty figures. It evaluates how well countries provide opportunities for their citizens to “enjoy a safe, productive life as a fully integrated member of society – irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.”