Zipping cross-country in a super-high-speed train has become commonplace in many countries these days, but it was unheard of when Japan launched its bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka 50 years ago Wednesday.
The Shinkansen, as it’s called in Japan, gave a boost to train travel in Europe and Asia at a time when the rise of the automobile and the airplane threated to eclipse it. It also was a symbol of pride for Japan, less than two decades after the end of World War II, and a precursor of the economic “miracle” to come.
The Oct. 1, 1964, inauguration ceremony was re-enacted at Tokyo Station on Wednesday at 6 a.m., complete with ribbon cutting. The first bullet train, with its almost cute bulbous round nose, traveled from Tokyo to Osaka in four hours, shaving two and a half hours off the 513-kilometer (319-mile) journey. The latest model, with a space-age-like elongated nose, takes just two hours and 25 minutes…
The Shinkansen renewed interest in high-speed rail elsewhere, notably in Europe. France and Spain are among the leaders in Europe, and Turkey last year became the ninth country to operate a train at an average speed of 200 kph, according to Railway Gazette. South Korea and Taiwan also operate high-speed systems in Asia…The fastest train in the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela Express, averages 169 kph (105 mph) on a short stretch between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware…
Here’s a look at the rest of the modern world. Which really doesn’t include the United States.
Japan marked the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with the city’s mayor inviting world leaders to see atomic bomb-scarred cities firsthand to be convinced that nuclear weapons should not exist.
Speaking before a crowd of survivors, their descendants and dignitaries including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the mayor urged U.S. President Barack Obama and others to visit, referring to a proposal made at a ministerial meeting in April of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Hiroshima.
“President Obama and all leaders of nuclear-armed nations, please respond to that call by visiting the A-bombed cities as soon as possible to see what happened with your own eyes,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. “If you do, you will be convinced that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil that must no longer be allowed to exist.”
About 45,000 people stood for a minute of silence at the ceremony in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 bombing that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed another 70,000, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.
I’m enough of a cranky old geek to remember when the cabinet member in charge of killing people in other lands was called the Secretary of War. Was WW2 a war I could support? You betcha. Did we sometimes act like the vicious monsters on the “other side”? You betcha. As an American, therefore, I have a responsibility to fight to keep my nation on a righteous path – opposing the greed and deceit so often prompting war.
Yes, I stood in the street with my family and neighbors and cheered and cried with joy – August 6, 1945 – because the war was over. At that moment we didn’t consider the threat our government had unleashed upon the world.
As for the music up top – Pete Seeger was a freedom fighter for us all. He would never let us forget evils committed in our name. The music was written by James Waters. Pete’s performance.
The lyrics are a poem written by one of my favorites, Nazim Hikmet. Even in exile from his beloved Turkey he, too, was a freedom fighter.
Thanks, Mike – who found something completely different.
Tim Berners-Lee — Reuters/Vincent West
Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who effectively invented the web with a proposal 25 years ago, has used the anniversary to establish a campaign called Web We Want. He wants people to sign up to this campaign and help draft a global “Internet Users’ Bill of Rights” to cover the next 25 years.
Berners-Lee kicked off the Web We Want drive with a series of interviews, in which he argued that the web is under threat from both corporations and governments, leaving its openness and neutrality in doubt.
“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture,” he told the Guardian. “It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”
On the government side, Berners-Lee is worried about surveillance in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA and GCHQ revelations, as well as the fragmentation this may cause. On the corporate side, he is concerned about the abuse of net neutrality and copyright law (which he described as “terrible”), as well as the prevalence of proprietary ecosystems such as Facebook.
The principles behind Web We Want, which is coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation, are as follows:
Affordable access to a universally available communications platform
The protection of personal user information and the right to communicate in private
Freedom of expression online and offline
Diverse, decentralized and open infrastructure
Neutral networks that don’t discriminate against content or users
I’ve been online since 1983. Even in early Internet days folks understood the risk of abuse by Government probably more so than by corporate scumbags. I recall one BBS I belonged to that had to become a fundraising center because one of the members was arrested and thrown into jail in the great state of Louisiana because of his gender identity.
Like most experienced geeks, I haven’t had a problem with most corporate access to my data because generally that access was granted by my own decision. Though, again, there always are those who see a chance to make a disreputable buck by selling illegally-acquired info.
But, courtesy of George W Bush and Barack Obama, we’re back to government snooping big time. The best of tech companies are working their coneheads off trying to build more secure systems, better encryption, means and methods we haven’t even heard of – yet – to protect us from Big Brother. Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal for a Web Bill of Rights makes a lot of sense, too. And I heartily endorse it.
A year after superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage to Hoboken, New Jersey, the city is looking to its past in order to plan for the future. “Hoboken: One Year After Sandy,” an exhibit that recently opened at the Hoboken Historical Museum, aims to not only remember the storm, but to highlight the city’s vulnerabilities and emphasize the need for long-term changes that Hoboken must make in order to continue thriving on the Hudson river waterfront.
The city of over 50,000 people…sits right on the Hudson River, as does much of its critical infrastructure. The Hoboken Terminal serves as one of the New York metropolitan area’s most important transportation hubs, with thousands of commuters passing through via New Jersey Transit, the Metro North Railroad line, Path train, and more each day. The waterfront is dotted with parks and offers spectacular views of Manhattan’s mighty skyline. Further inland (which isn’t very far at all) Hoboken is filled with pastel-colored buildings dating back to the late 19th or early 20th century, and many residents live in ground-floor or basement-level apartments.
According to Juan Melli, communications manager for Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken sustained over $100 million in private property damage from Sandy and $10 million in public property damage.
Hoboken’s peculiar topography caused uneven flooding throughout the city; much of the city sits in a flood basin below sea level but some areas occupy a higher elevation. Some streets were spared, while others were submerged beneath several feet of contaminated water.
The museum’s exhibit demonstrates this phenomenon with an interactive computer map of Hoboken that models how floodwaters engulfed the city during the storm; it poured in from the north and south, and quickly pooled in lower-lying areas.
Residents have been encouraged to submit multimedia to the exhibit, as well as to share their story of Sandy in a guestbook or record it in a quiet booth off to the side. The museum hopes to create an archive of the accounts and make them available to the public online once the exhibit closes next year…
A recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that sea levels are rising faster than previously – and Hoboken itself was mentioned by the report’s author as being in danger. Future planning is key.
“We’re very comprehensive,” Melli said of the city’s plans to protect itself from future storms. The city has partnered with the Department of Energy to create a “smart grid” that will be more resilient to power outages. The city has also purchased additional flood pumps, is growing its emergency response team, promoting greener and stronger infrastructure, in addition to exploring a plethora of other options.
Know-nothing conservatives, whether Tea Party ignoranuses or simply cheapskate Republicans, in state after state, city, shore or mid-American farm country continue apace in their denial of any change in climate. Rejecting science is considered holy writ in bastions of superstition. They rely on the American tradition of providing aid to communities too stupid to care for themselves, so perverse in their reliance on 14th Century ideology they refuse to allow investigation of future danger or preparation for safety of citizens at risk.
Cities like Hoboken will prove themselves representative of the best of American standards in political action – while bird-brains and turd-brains from North Carolina to Nebraska take chances with the lives of generations to come.
A homeowner who is part of America, not the Confederacy – REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
An American flag is seen on the window of a door at the Breeezy Point community, which was damaged by hurricane Sandy in October 2012 in the borough of Queens in New York — photo taken October 28, 2013.
If you live in Oklahoma or Colorado and your Congresscritter voted against aid for the folks devastated by Sandy – but, they begged up for aid for you after a tornado or flood – please, give them what they deserve for being hypocrites and scumbags.
Vote ‘em out of office and tell them to get an honest job!
Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, began 12 years ago Monday…There are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100, Stars and Stripes reported…
Discussion and media interest about Afghanistan have faded since President Obama ordered a troop surge three years ago, but a White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion, Stars and Stripes said.
A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University, said this isn’t the first time a president has tried to avoid news out of Afghanistan, the report said.
“George W. Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” Thrall said. “Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war [when] Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what’s going on there.”
Troops still in Afghanistan told Stars and Stripes they have mixed feelings about the lack of attention.
“It’s kind of sad, because I think some people are a little more occupied with the latest TV show,” said Lt. Uriel Macias, a Navy reservist assigned to a stability operations team in Kabul. “But what is often forgotten is that we are still losing people all the time.”
Of course, we could have left a long time ago – just as we could have stayed out of Iraq altogether. But, that not only would have required reason and objectivity among our elected officials in the White House and Congress – it would have required courage in the face of right-wing chickenhawks, war-lovers and profiteers.
Not especially likely in the Land of Liberty.
Martin Luther King Jr, Walter Reuther, Everett Dirksen, John Lewis
…Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters.
Event organizers said Wednesday that they invited top Republicans, all of whom declined to attend because of scheduling conflicts or ill health…
It seems pretty obvious, but if you want to change the fact that your party is viewed skeptically by minorities, and you want to claim Martin Luther King Jr.’s mantel — I’m looking at you Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) – then blowing off the highest profile civil rights event of the year is probably not a smart move, if for no other reason than “optics.” After their losses in the 2012 election, Republicans vowed to make a better effort to reach out to minorities, and just two weeks ago at its summer meeting, the GOP launched a program to attract minority voters by highlighting young “rising stars” in the party.
So what gives? According to Ed O’Keefe, the lawmakers said they “received formal invitations only in recent weeks, making it too late to alter their summer recess schedules.” Republicans had no problem appearing in droves at a hastily organized tea party rally in June, where “[GOP] lawmakers sweltered in a long line waiting to take the stage,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Some weren’t even invited but just showed up hoping to get a chance to speak to the party faithful…
So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:
Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City…
The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.
“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” civl rights leader Julian Bond told MSNBC yesterday, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way…”
Bond did credit Cantor for trying hard to find a replacement speaker, but, ultimately, the leader was unable to find a single Republican to attend the event.
I just happened to pick this article of the dozens on the topic. I knew I would be able to find one easily. We are dealing with today’s version of the Republican Party. White and Right.
Fifty years ago there were Republican officials from my home town who rode our Freedom Train from New England to Washington, DC. There were friends of mine who were Republican activists who came along. Further along – as push came to shove – there were Congressional Republicans like Everett Dirksen who stood up and opposed the “official” government bigots, Southern Democrats, and joined the fight to get the Civil Rights Act passed.
He said “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied.” Try that out with the Tea Party Republicans, nowadays.
Just about this time – 50 years ago – I was sitting on the side of the steps leading into the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. A young Black preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. was into his speech on the Mall on the theme of “I have a dream”.
I’d finished my tasks as part of the local amalgamation of civil rights groups centered in factory towns in southern New England. Our Freedom Train had made its assigned stops picking folks up. We made it to DC without incident. We found our way over to the Mall and settled into a day of protest for jobs and civil rights. Frankly, I was exhausted.
Among other needs, one that I almost always filled was security against every kind of creep who might attack our protest – whether they were creeps from the John Birch Society, precursor to the Tea Party, or agents planted by any one of the dozens of police from FBI to local coppers.
I sat and listened. And sitting with three other young women and men from my detail, we discussed and rejoiced over the explosion of talent and leadership reaching the national stage that day. All the speakers, all the musicians, and especially Dr. King and his wonderful speech to the world.
Congressman John Lewis – then, speaking on behalf of SNCC – and still at it. We’ll never relent.
Fifty years ago Wednesday, John Lewis was the youngest speaker to address the estimated quarter-million people at the March on Washington.
“Those who have said be patient and wait — we must say that we cannot be patient,” the 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) said that day. “We do not want our freedom gradually. But we want to be free now.”
Aug. 28, 1963, also was the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, and few are as thoughtful about the significance of the day as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia and civil rights icon.
That summer, the nation had seen black children attacked by dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, Ala., as well as the murder of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers.
In his 1963 speech, Lewis thundered: “Where is the political party that would make it unnecessary to march on Washington?”
Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, says Lewis originally planned to give a much angrier speech.
“[The vote] is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society,” Lewis told the crowd Saturday. “And we’ve got to use it.”
“Unlike all the other leaders there, John, coming out of the SNCC leadership, really experienced that violence,” says Bunch. “He experienced that violence as a Freedom Rider. He experienced that violence at the sit-ins. He found himself saying how crucial it was not to wait for freedom because waiting for freedom also meant that there would be years more violence.”
Lewis is still fighting, he told a crowd Saturday during a march to commemorate the original demonstration 50 years ago.
“There are forces — there are people who want to take us back,” he said. “We cannot go back. We’ve come too far. We want to go forward.”
Lewis said he never thought 50 years later that some of the same issues would be back on the table.
“I thought we had completed the fight for the right to vote, the right to participate in the democratic process. I thought we were in a process of reforming the justice system. But when I see something like what the Supreme Court did, or what happened to Trayvon Martin, it tells me over and over again that we’re not there yet. We have not finished.”
You’ll get to hear Dr. King’s speech beaucoup times, today. And then it will be put away till the next annual event on television. You’ll get to hear John Lewis on the floor of Congress any day, every day. Because the miserable cowards, the bigots and racists of America haven’t gone away.
We shall overcome – but, only if we count first of all on our own selves, our own feet to do the marching, our voices to lift up in song. Yes, and those of us with a place in the digital world have a responsibility to speak up there, as well. Being social doesn’t mean you slack off on changing society for the better.