Tagged: Japan

Solar plane starts on longest section of flight across Pacific Ocean

A solar-powered aircraft has now passed the point of no return on a record-breaking attempt to fly across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii…

The plane, which has a wingspan bigger than a jumbo jet, took off from Nagoya Airfield in Japan at 18:03 GMT on Sunday. On Monday morning it was off the east coast of Japan and, all going well, it is scheduled to land in Hawaii in approximately 120 hours.

Live video from the cockpit of the plane is being broadcast on YouTube, and shows the pilot André Borschberg wearing an oxygen mask and thick flight clothes to protect him from the cold…

The five-day leg from Japan to Hawaii is regarded as the most challenging part of the journey.

“If we did a five day flight across a continent and we encountered any problems – be it weather, operational issues, there’s an alternate airport we can land,” the project’s managing director Gregory Blatt told Al Jazeera.

“Crossing the Pacific, there no alternate airport so that’s what keeps me up at night, that’s what keeps up the teams, the engineers, the pilots. This is a first ever – are we going to be able to make it?”

If successful, the 120-plus hour flight to Hawaii will be the longest solo flight in aviation history. It will also break records for being the longest distance flown by a aircraft powered only by the sun.

Stay in touch folks. Here’s the link, again, for the live YouTube link.

USDOE tells Freeport LNG not to sell to Chinese customers – Free Trade, eh?

The U.S. Energy Department cautioned Freeport LNG Development LP against signing up Chinese customers for the company’s planned liquefied natural gas export terminal in Texas, Chief Executive Officer Michael Smith said.

“Early on in our project, we were quite frankly warned by the Department of Energy that it would not be looked at as politically correct for us to have a large Chinese customer,” Smith said…at the FT Energy Strategies Summit in New York. “One of the largest Chinese customers wanted a full train,” or processing plant, he said.

In return for signing LNG purchase agreements, Chinese buyers demand equity stakes, which they say are required by their lenders, Smith said. Aside from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal, which has an investment from a Hong Kong-based company, no U.S. export projects have disclosed Chinese customers…That contrasts with Canada, where Chinese investors are key backers of export projects.

A glut of natural gas production from shale reservoirs has spurred dozens of projects to export LNG. The U.S. may become a net exporter of gas by 2017, government data show. In China, the third-largest market for LNG, demand for gas as a cleaner alternative to coal and oil for power generation is rising…

The Energy Department has given final authorization to six projects, including Freeport’s, to export LNG to countries lacking a free trade agreement with the U.S…The only countries that can’t receive exports are those prohibited by U.S. law or policy, Lindsey Geisler said by e-mail.

If the department did advise Freeport not to seek Chinese customers, “the comment made by DOE was, in my judgment, ill-advised and probably made in the expectation of not being cited publicly, but perhaps to gently dissuade Mr. Smith from entertaining a Chinese terminal user,” Zach Allen, president of Pan Eurasian Enterprises, a…tracker of LNG shipments said.

Canadian LNG projects have attracted Chinese investors, who have bought gas supplies in the field and taken stakes in potential pipelines and shipping terminals. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s project along the Pacific Coast counts China’s state-owned PetroChina Co. as an investor. CNOOC Ltd., another Chinese state-owned company, has a less advanced Canadian LNG proposal with Inpex Corp. and JGC Corp., both of Japan.

If you’re concerned about how Free Trade operates under the United States government, you can look at this tale as a classic example of our government as liars. Time after time, we get statements from the White House and Congress about China and other Asian nations – but, mostly China – needing to step up and spend their money in the United States. From Huawei to CNOOC, our government then steps in and tries to shut down business.

There is little or no difference between Conservative liars on committees controlled by Congressional Republicans and Liberal liars on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Japanese burger-freaks have a chance to smell like a Whopper

For hamburger aficionados who want the smell even when they can’t get a bite, Burger King is putting the scent into a limited-edition fragrance.

Burger King said…that the Whopper grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only on April 1, and only in Japan.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke, though the company chose the date deliberately.

The limited “Flame Grilled” fragrance can be purchased at 5,000 yen (about $40), including the burger. There will be only 1,000 of them.

Burger King is hoping the scent will seduce new fans for their burgers. I know it certainly would have the opposite effect on me. And I love hamburgers.

World’s 1st bullet train celebrates 50th Anniversary


Click to enlargeThe original Series 0

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…

Cripes.

Here’s a look at the rest of the modern world. Which really doesn’t include the United States.

Remembering absent friends and more…

30 seconds over Tokyo

It’s been a tough morning.

Up early as usual. Because of my wife’s work routine, we’re usually up before 5AM. Habit runs right through the weekend.

I figured to watch the start of the German Gran Prix. Had it set to record so I could check back through the race after it was over. But, I started to look around to see what else was on TV this early. I certainly wasn’t going to watch the news. Guaranteed it would be them dangerous furriners killing each other in Ukraine; brave little Israel killing Arabs in self-defense at a rate of 200 to 1; crowds of white Americans demonstrating our freedom by massing to keep children fleeing North towards our border from crossing into the Land of Liberty.

I don’t recall the channel; but, there was 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO…the story of the shock raid by a few American bombers that took off from an aircraft carrier in 1942 to bring the war started by Japan – home to the Japanese nation. You can read about the raid any number of places. The movie is pretty accurate.

It became harder to watch than I thought. I saw the movie when it came out in the autumn of 1944 at our neighborhood movie theater. My sister and me, mom and dad. Four of my uncles were still overseas in the war. One of my older cousins was missing in the Pacific.

I didn’t remember General Doolittle’s speech to the pilots and crew before they lifted their B-25 Mitchell bombers off the flight deck of the Hornet. So, it took me by surprise when he finished by explaining to the airmen this would be the first time American pilots bombed a city. Yes, these were military targets; but, innocent civilians were inevitably going to be killed and injured. Anyone who didn’t want to take part in what some would feel was murder of the innocents could step aside and no one would think the worse of them.

And I had to cry.

First and foremost, all the emotions of those days of war flooded back into my heart and mind. People I loved, people I didn’t even know. Tens of thousands dying horrible deaths around the globe from England to Asia and the Pacific. Then, I couldn’t help but reflect on what our nation has become; how hardened and distorted our culture has become – we now only describe the murder of innocent civilians as “collateral damage”. We can send in pilotless drones to fire missiles at our enemy du jour and maybe only kill a few members of their families. Guilty of being kin to evil men. What have we become?

I couldn’t finish watching the movie. I got as far as the Ruptured Duck, one of the B-25s crash-landing in the ocean just off the coast of China – as did all the planes after the mission. Running out of fuel near China or the Soviet Union. Crashing into the sea or just inland. Most of those who flew the attack survived the mission.

In what was called one of the worst war crimes of the century, Japan executed 250,000 Chinese civilians along the coast because some had aided our airmen to survival and eventual safety.

Japanese artist jailed for kayak replicating her vagina


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A Japanese artist who made figures of Lady Gaga and a kayak modeled on her vagina said on Wednesday from jail she was “outraged” by her arrest and vowed a court fight against obscenity charges.

Megumi Igarashi, 42, says she was challenging a culture of “discrimination” against discussion of the vagina in Japanese society.

Igarashi, who worked under the alias Rokudenashiko, which means “good-for-nothing girl” in Japanese, built a yellow kayak with a top shaped like her vagina after raising about $10,000 through crowdfunding.

Igarashi sent 3D printer data of her scanned vagina – the digital basis for her kayak project – as a thanks to a number of donors.

She was arrested for distributing indecent material on Saturday and faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Igarashi said about 10 police officers had arrived at her house on Saturday and initially, she thought they were only interested in confiscating work she has said is meant as a pop-art exploration of the “manko”, vulgar Japanese slang for vagina.

“I couldn’t stop myself from laughing a little as I explained to the grim-looking officers, ‘This is the Lady Gaga ‘manko’ figure’,” Igarashi told Reuters from across a plastic security divide in a central Tokyo jail.

“I did not expect to get arrested at all. Even as they were confiscating my works, I thought to myself, ‘This will be a good story’. Then they handcuffed and arrested me. Now, I just feel outraged…”

Igarashi has touched off a debate on both women’s rights and the freedom of artistic expression, said Kazuyuki Minami, her lead defense lawyer.

The legal definition of what counts as obscenity is vague in Japan, and the key point of debate will be deciding whether the vagina itself can be considered obscene, said Minami…

A 1951 Supreme Court case broadly defined obscenity as something that stimulates desire and violates an ordinary person’s sense of sexual shame and morality.

Just like political idjits, bigoted idjits, even musical idjits – every nation seems to have its share of sensual and sexual idjits. Japan, obviously, is no exception.

Geiger counters not discovering any terrorist dirty bombs – just radioactive goods from Japan!


300 radioactive Japanese cars stopped at Russian border

The Customs Department had detected radiation emanating from motor spare parts imported from Japan and the consignment was sent back to Japan.

Customs Media Spokesperson Leslie Gamini said that the radioactive chemical Caesium 137 was detected in the consignment at the Colombo [Sri Lanka] port…He said that equipment installed at the port to detect radiation materiel had detected the chemical emanating from the consignment.

The Customs spokesman said that residue of the chemical had been found from the spare parts and so the consignment was detained at the port and sent back.

He said the consignment had originated from a company operating from close proximity to the Fukushima nuclear power plant which was damaged in a massive earth quake in 2011.

The Customs Department said that while only a small amount of residue was found in the consignment, a major disaster was averted by ensuring the items did not enter the local market.

If you think this is a rare and unique happening, read on:

It certainly won’t be the first thing on the minds of Caribbean people when they wake up every day but there is clear evidence that radioactive material from the area in Japan where a nuclear power plant failed after a 2011 tsunami and earthquake is beginning to turn up among commercial imports to the region.

Last month, customs and other enforcement authorities in Jamaica intercepted and quarantined a 40-foot container of vehicle parts destined for the Caribbean trade bloc headquarter nation of Guyana after tests had shown elevated levels of contamination.

That the levels startled authorities into quarantining the container and preparing plans to return it forthwith to Japan is slowly beginning to bring regional customs officials to the reality that other contaminated imports might have slipped through their monitoring net in earlier months.

But that should not have been the case. In late 2012, Jamaican authorities also discovered a passenger mini bus with similarly high levels of radioactive material on a city pier and impounded it as well but that very incident has only now come to light after the transiting Guyana container made news headlines.

Health and customs officials in Guyana say they were only alerted to the fact that Jamaica had saved Guyanese car dealers and owners from actually and unknowingly handling contaminated parts when local Jamaican newspapers exposed the story in the past week.

That country has no Geiger Counter to measure or test imports from Japan or any other affected country for acceptable radiation levels…

Reflect upon the fact that paranoia over terrorists with imaginary superpowers convinced customs agencies around the world to raise capabilities for radiation detection. Those fearfilled delusions are now turning up real threats otherwise undetected because governments consider commercial goods free of danger.

Wonder how much radioactive crap from Chernobyl and other radioactive screw-ups ever crossed into the United States before Islamophobia prompted an upgrade in safety concerns?

Thanks, Mike

Science museum opens exhibit with singing toilets

A toilet exhibition featuring a giant slide and singing toilet seats opens at the Miraikan science museum in Tokyo.

The exhibit aims to make people more comfortable discussing their bowel movements, says staff. ‘Toilets and faeces are normally thought of as very unclean topics, but I would like for people to actively talk about them instead of just thinking that they’re dirty,’ says museum staff member Tami Sakamaki.

Um, OK.