Anonymous donor leaves 10 million yen in public toilet

An anonymous donor has left a wad of cash worth $131,000 in a public toilet in Japan, with instructions it be used to help victims of the March earthquake and tsunami…

A plastic shopping bag, containing 10 million yen, was found on September 22 in a toilet for disabled people in the city hall of Sakado, a commuter town north of Tokyo, a city official told AFP.

The city will give the money to the Japanese Red Cross if the anonymous donor doesn’t reclaim it within three months, city spokeswoman Masumi Sekiguchi said.

She said a hand-written note was attached to the cash, reading: “I’m all alone. I have no future so let the people in Tohoku use it.”

Tohoku is the country’s northeast region devastated by the catastrophe that killed 20,000 people and triggered an emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

“There was no witness to the act and we cannot guess what kind of person has been involved,” she said. “We were really surprised. We also feel thankful for such kindness.”

The kind of person was an ordinary human being. Someone guided more by kindness than greed. Someone guided more by love for fellow human beings than gold.

An ordinary human being.

Public interest paparazzi serve a purpose – for pay – in South Korea

Learning in-car technique at a ssu-parazzi school

With his debts mounting and his wages barely enough to cover the interest, Im Hyun-seok decided he needed a new job. The mild-mannered former English tutor joined South Korea’s growing ranks of camera-toting bounty hunters.

Known here sarcastically as paparazzi, people like Mr. Im stalk their prey and capture them on film. But it is not celebrities, politicians or even hardened criminals they pursue. Rather, they roam cities secretly videotaping fellow citizens breaking the law, deliver the evidence to government officials and collect the rewards.

“Some people hate us,” Mr. Im said. “But we’re only doing what the law encourages.”

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income.

Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.

“I’m making three times what I made as an English tutor,” said Mr. Im, 39, who began his new line of work around seven years ago and says he makes about $85,000 a year… Wow!

Snitching for pay has become especially popular since the world’s economic troubles slowed South Korea’s powerful economy. Paparazzi say most of their ranks are people who have lost their jobs in the downturn and are drawn by news reports of fellow Koreans making tens of thousands of dollars a year reporting crimes.

There are no reliable numbers of people who have taken up the work since governments at all levels have their own programs, but the phenomenon is large enough that it has spawned a new industry: schools set up to train aspiring paparazzi…

The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers…

For most infractions, rewards can range from as little as about $5 (reporting a cigarette tosser) to as much as $850 (turning in an unlicensed seller of livestock). But there are possibilities for windfalls. Seoul’s city government promises up to $1.7 million for reports of major corruption involving its own staff members…

Not a new idea; but, certainly the most extensive implementation of civilian policing I can recall. Being a bounty hunter – without a gun and the crap ideology it’s wrapped in here in the USofA – is an old and usually honorable profession. Only the crooks and corrupt are serious about their complaints. And honest civilians who criticise the craft – should take a look at the standards they’re using to judge their fellow citizens who own both a conscience and a camera.

Paintings worth millions discovered in a Polish outbuilding

A collection of 300 paintings worth millions of euros have been discovered in a Polish outhouse belonging to a 92-year-old former bricklayer, with police baffled as to how they got there.

The paintings were found mixed up with junk and rubbish in a dirty two-storey concrete building in the bricklayer’s garden near the north-western city of Szczecin.

Police said the mysterious collection included works of art from the Renaissance and German baroque periods, with the oldest painting dating back to 1532. They also discovered a lithograph by the Polish artist Jozef Czajkowski, which disappeared from a museum in Katowice during the war…

The collection, having suffered from its 66 years in the outhouse, has now been moved to a museum in Szczecin. “Many of the pictures are in a terrible condition and we’re trying to identify them and find out where they came from,” said Przmyslaw Kimon, spokesman for Szczecin police. “Some of them are Italian so we’re in contact with the Italian authorities, and we are also working with Interpol.”

But police admitted to being perplexed as to how the bricklayer, now charged with handling stolen art, came to possess the paintings. Their investigation has also been hindered by the fact that two strokes have left the man known only as Antoni M. [owing to reporting restrictions] unable to communicate.

Most theories revolve around the possibility that the bricklayer had somehow managed to get hold of a collection of looted art, abandoned in the chaotic last weeks of the Second World War as Germans put life before property in their efforts to escape the advancing Red Army…

Possessing an interest in art he decided to keep the paintings rather than turn them into the authorities.
He also decided to keep them out of public sight. Stashing them in hiding places in his outhouse, he made the building off-limits to even his closest family.

The news of the discovery was welcomed by Leszek Jodlinski, director of the Silesia Museum in Katowice, one of the museums stripped bare by the Nazis during the war, and the former home of the Czajkowski lithograph.

Amazing that they stayed hidden this long. Not that the atmosphere in an unheated outbuilding is conducive to longterm preservation of art and artifacts. Amazing that they survived the Nazi retreat. Pretty much every city in Poland was destroyed under Hitler’s command. Only Kraków was spared by a sympathetic German officer who refused to follow orders.

BTW – ever wish to see a great film about Resistance fighters stopping a Nazi art hoard from being carried off to Germany, rent The Train [1964], starring Burt Lancaster.

Obama OK’d the secret delivery of bunker buster bombs to Israel

U.S. Air Force F-15E drops a GBU-28 “Bunker Buster” 5,000-pound Bomb

President Obama secretly agreed to sell Israel 55 bunker-busting bombs, according to a Newsweek report…

With the sale of deep-penetrating bombs called GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators, Obama is satisfying a weapons request Israel first made during the Bush administration.

Israel’s request for bunker-busters in 2005 was denied. At the time, the Defense Department had frozen most military sales to Israel because of concerns Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China. Pentagon officials apparently had a change of heart…

Even some of the hawks from the George W. Bush administration grudgingly give Obama credit…”If you say to the White House, ‘Obama has been very unfriendly to Israel,’ they say, ‘What do you mean? It’s the best military-to-military relationship ever.’ And that part is true,” says Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East policy at the National Security Council. “If you look at the trajectory from Clinton to Bush to Obama, the military relationship has gotten steadily stronger. I don’t think Obama changed the trajectory, but he certainly didn’t interfere with it, and it continued under him.”

The bunker busters were a significant breakthrough. The Israelis first requested the sale in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. In 2007, Bush informed then prime minister Ehud Olmert that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010.

The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the secret decision.

Secret decisions stroking the Israeli government are nothing new in any White House. One can only hope that the promises of change – someday – will mean our government is turning away Israel’s quest for Lebensraum. Who knows? That might even include being honest with all American voters, as well?

NASA will demonstrate largest-ever solar sail by 2016

NASA’s upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to “transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities.” Three project proposals have been selected for these missions, which should be launching in 2015 and 2016. One of those projects…will be demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail. While NASA has recently tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 409 square feet, or 38 square meters.

So, what would one do with a solar sail that big?

For one thing, it could be used to gather orbital debris over a period of several years – sort of like a drift net fishing trawler in space. It could also be included in a satellite’s payload, and activated at the end of the spacecraft’s mission. The sail, still attached to the satellite, could then be used to drag it out of its orbit.

Not unlike a sea anchor, it could also be used to hold satellites in unstable locations. As an example, it could allow GeoStorm solar flare-tracking satellites to be located at points three times farther from the earth than is currently possible – the push of the Sun’s rays against the sail would balance the pull of the solar gravitational field on the satellite, ultimately resulting in the spacecraft staying put.

Finally, it could be used as a propulsion system for deep space travel.

Now, I should check in on how a similar Japanese space sail experiment is doing. It’s a technology that still hasn’t realized anything near its potential on paper. Yet.