Wonbatto comments

Posted in: What are your views on women breastfeeding in public? See in context

For the first few months of life, babies need to feed on demand, as the goal is to ensure healthy weight gain. They are not feeding on a schedule. To argue that there needs to be any significant restrictions on breastfeeding in public would effectively mean that society doesn't expect women to be out of the home much when they have very young children, or have to be extremely limited in their movements when they do go out. That in turn places greater burden on women and ultimately makes the prospect of having children (or having more children) less desirable - that's an attitude that this country really doesn't need right now.

Discretion is key, but I think there are not many women who don't want to be feeding discreetly. I do think that it's common courtesy to make some effort to offer some level of privacy. I don't think we all need to look at the ceiling and whistle when a mother is feeding nearby, but often things happen in public (child having a tantrum, people having an argument, someone drops a grocery bag, etc.) that the people involved might appreciate some discretion on the part of onlookers.

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Posted in: North Korea defiant in face of U.S., China pressure See in context

While China would like to see a "stable" Korean peninsula, it has no interest in seeing North Korea fail as a state, or reunification for that matter. Reunification would undoubtedly happen under a political system resembling the South (capitalist and democratic), meaning:

1) A humanitarian crisis following the initial fall of the North Korean government and collapse of its society would push thousands (or millions) of refugees into China. The Chinese government has already shown that it has no interest in dealing humanely with the limited number of migrants/refugees who make it over the border presently.

2) A government of a united Korean peninsula with power concentrated in Seoul brings a nation closely allied with the US (hosting US military personnel, at least for the short term) right to China's border.

China wants to be a major player in world affairs, so can't be seen as actively supporting a country so roundly condemned by the rest of the world. My own hope is that they eventually realize that having a nation at their doorstep with such demonstrably unstable (read: loony) leadership just isn't good for anyone, themselves included.

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Posted in: Taiwanese boat leaves disputed islands after water cannon duel See in context

I just can't see the PRC supporting in any way a Taiwan bid for sovereignty of anything at this point. The PRC accepts that most of Taiwan (island/province) is under ROC administration, but that the ROC is no longer a legitimate government. In their view of the world, there is only one entity called "China", and its interests are represented by the PRC in Beijing.

In this territorial dispute, we're not talking about transferring administration, we're talking about recognizing sovereignty. If historical Chinese claims are recognized, then the PRC has to demand that any territory yielded be placed under PRC administration. To allow ROC claims of sovereignty is to recognize the ROC as a legitimate government, something the PRC will not do.

So why is Taiwan pushing an issue that they will not win? I don't really know the answer. They have for decades been pushing for some official status at the UN. They will not be recognized as a member state anytime soon, but any recognition of Taiwan as having interests as distinct from PRC will boost Taiwan's status as something higher than a "renegade province" - which is more or less how Beijing views them and expects any other country that maintains diplomatic relations with Beijing to view them.

Or, perhaps Taiwan is hoping to muddy the waters (so to speak) of territorial claims in a way that at least yields some officially recognized economic use of the disputed area by Taiwan. Or, perhaps Taiwan's politicians are simply jumping on the nationalist bandwagon that seems to be sweeping throughout the region without really thinking through the consequences. They aren't the only ones.

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Posted in: Taiwanese boat leaves disputed islands after water cannon duel See in context

The ethnic makeup of Taiwanese people matters not one wit in this discussion. The ROC government has administrative control over Taiwan and some surrounding islands, and has operated as a de facto independent power for the last 60 years. Taiwan's territorial claims may be rooted in historical Chinese claims going back decades (or centuries), but Taiwan has its own objectives and aspirations here.

It's unlikely that Taiwan is going to "side" with PRC on this issue, to the extent that the issue has only two sides. An expansionist PRC threatens Taiwan's delicate status quo in a way that no other regional power is threatened.

As I and others have mentioned, though, I don't see how any formal process can result in recognition of Taiwan's sovereignty over these islands.

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Posted in: N Korea says it plans nuclear test aimed at U.S. See in context

So they were lying before when they launched their first FAIL and FAILED to launch their second!!!

The North Korean propaganda machine doesn't really even attempt to not contradict itself. On the one hand, it claimed outrage at the suggestion by other nations that it was developing nuclear weapons. Therefore, given the hostile international climate, North Korea has no choice but to threaten use of nuclear weapons (which it's really been developing all along).

On the one hand, North Korea criticizes other countries (notably the US) for not following treaties and international agreements, or at least, their interpretation of those agreements. But they have all but admitted that they had originally signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in bad faith (they later withdrew).

In any case, the North Korean regime holds onto power in large part by convincing the people that the world is hostile and that war is imminent (mainly with the propaganda machine's favorite punching bags, the US and Japan). They will not launch all out war as they know it would be ultimately unwinnable, but nor will they enter into any sort of meaningful detente, as this removes their government's justification for rule.

In short: nothing new to see here folks, move along...

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Posted in: Taiwanese boat leaves disputed islands after water cannon duel See in context

Taiwan is in a tough spot vis a vis these territorial disputes as it is not a member state of the UN and much of the world doesn't even formally recognize ROC sovereignty over the island of Taiwan itself (recognition is given to PRC). I'm not sure if they even have standing to present a case for dispute to the ICJ. Even if such a case made it to the ICJ, I am not sure there would be any ability to rule in Taiwan's favor in the dispute without also implicitly recognizing Taiwan/ROC sovereignty as distinct from the PRC.

I agree with Virtuoso that a final determination of PRC sovereignty over these islands puts Taiwan in an even more precarious position. The islands are closer to Taiwan than the mainland, but placing them firmly under Beijing's control encircles Taiwan and may put a PRC presence closer to airspace and sea lanes that Taiwan uses. It might be in Taiwan's interest that the islands remain under Japanese administration (if not sovereignty), but we'd be assuming that reasoned self-interest might trump nationalist pandering.

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Posted in: Students forced to drink diluted acid as punishment at Aichi school See in context

As long as the solution is sufficiently dilute, there's little physical danger posed to the children who drank it. Nevertheless, the teacher needs to be bounced for 2 reasons:

1) Forcing a child to drink lab chemicals, even if reasonably safe, if a clear effort to intimidate and establish control. The teacher likely has some serious emotional issues of his own.

2) You don't ever, ever, ever eat laboratory reagents. Even formerly accepted practices like mouth pipetting (even of water) are no longer used. You might very well find edible stuff in a chemistry stockroom - deionized water, table salt, sucrose, etc. They aren't fit for human consumption. Any teacher who thinks otherwise, especially in the context of intimidating students in this way, is both a bad teacher and a bad scientist.

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Posted in: U.S. sailor arrested for trespassing in Yokosuka See in context

On the contrary, Japanese are mostly remarkably tolerant. There is a lot of pro-American sentiment here.

They just don't like the huge US military installations.

Then perhaps they should stop electing governments that support a continued US military presence in Japan and instead elect parties that would support major revision to or ending of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

The Alliance as it stands is supported by the current PM and his government, the two largest political parties (LDP and DPJ), and is broadly supported by the public in opinion polls. While there are occasional disagreements on certain aspects of implementation (most notably base location), reduction or removal of US Military stationed in Japan has not been supported by any government in the past 50 years and has not been a major issue in recent elections. So there's little basis to argue that there is broad support in Japan for ending the Alliance and removing US Military personnel.

In any case, decisions about national security and bilateral alliances tend not to be made because an involved party rang someone's doorbell in the middle of the night and ran off.

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Posted in: Rare photo of A-bomb split cloud found in Hiroshima See in context

However, Japan should increase their relations with China to get full independence from United States so Japanese can start build their military freely including nuclear bombs. (Asia Union)

The prospect of any sort of greatly increased relations between China and Japan is pretty remote at this point.

It's also worth noting that Japan, Korea, and countries of SE Asia are free to align themselves (or not) however they see fit to match their national interests. These countries are overwhelmingly choosing closer ties with the US at the expense of China.

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Posted in: 'Battle of the Reds' Wine Challenge See in context

Australia and New Zealand wines tend to be pretty underrepresented at wine shops here in Japan, in my limited experience. They tend to be very heavy on French wines, with some Italian and Spanish, and Chilean thrown in towards the low end. California wines rarely show up beyond the mass-market offerings.

Anything that raises the profile of Aus/NZ wines in Japan is, in my opinion, a good thing. They produce some of the best reasonably priced wine on the market today.

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Posted in: Abe accuses China of letting Japanese firms be targeted during isle protests See in context

As a rule, spontaneous large-scale protests aren't allowed in China. There are isolated cases of protests against local government corruption, pollution, or land seizures, but one rarely or never sees protests against a government or some larger cause. I don't think it's a stretch to say that protests and targeting of Japanese people/companies/products for assault and vandalism happen with at least tacit approval of the government.

For Abe's part, he would do well to try not to put more fuel on the fire and give any reason to get the rabble riled up (e.g. maybe keep his mouth shut about retracting apologies, etc.)

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Posted in: Japan to survey Pacific seabed for rare earths See in context

Extraction of Rare Earth Elements (REE) is a difficult problem because, as has been pointed out, the processing of the ore really is a messy process with toxic and radioactive byproducts (REE ores tend to be high in uranium and especially thorium). It can be done in a more environmentally friendly way (recovering the byproducts), but this drives up cost. And what do you do with all of that uranium and thorium? Sell to nuclear power plants? Probably not...

China has large amounts of known reserves, little environmental regulation, and the ability to manipulate prices in a way that it's simply not feasible for competitors to enter the market, especially those who have some interest in mining in an environmentally responsible way.

And to add to this, REE are used in many "greeen energy" applications like solar panels, photosynthetic catalysts, and rechargeable batteries (e.g. for hybrid cars). There's active research in doing many of these things without REE, but limiting REE supply undoubtedly means more reliance on fossil fuels, at least in the short term. In the energy world, nothing really is free...

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Posted in: Rare photo of A-bomb split cloud found in Hiroshima See in context

Lives of more than 100,000 people in Nagasaki were lost for what ? So that you could end the war 2 days quicker ?

While I tend to agree that the bombing of Nagasaki came before the Japanese government had the ability to comprehend the nature of the destruction at Hiroshima (and more adequately weigh surrender), every day that the war continued was a death sentence for POWs as well as civilians in Japanese-controlled areas of Asia that were living in increasingly dire conditions. So yes, every day that the war ended sooner really did count.

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Posted in: Abe calls for 'resolute' action against N Korea See in context

China supports (and tolerates the antics of) North Korea for 2 main reasons:

1) Collapse of the N Korean regime would be a humanitarian crisis with thousands/millions of N Koreans fleeing the chaos into China.

China's record on N Korean refugees now is absolutely deplorable. Repatriation is the Chinese government's policy for refugees who are caught, even though it means return to a labour camp or summary execution upon return. Have a look at the heartbreaking story of the Mofa Seven


A group who attempted to apply for asylum in China, were immediately detained and deported, and presumed dead or imprisoned. Needless to say, China has no interest in seeing more coming over.

2) Reunification will undoubtedly happen under a political system much more closely resembling the capitalist, democratic South. The South is closely allied with the US and, while not exactly closely allied with Japan, not the bitter enemies that the North (and perhaps China) would prefer them to be. China wouldn't want such a country sharing a border with them, if it can be avoided.

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Posted in: JAL to serve Miyazaki beef on international first class See in context

2m yen for a rount trip F ticket, or you can blow some frequent flyer miles (actually not an enormous sum for someone who flies regularly, e.g. for work).

The 787 only has business class as the highest class of service.

JAL main courses in first and business class tend to be really, really good and well prepared. Order your steak rare and it actually comes rare.

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Posted in: The king of pizzas? We sample Domino’s pricey new luxury pizza See in context

That's why I make all my pizzas at home. Always hot, always on time, and I never have to fret about whether I should tip or not.

Protip: Get a basic fresh (or frozen) Margherita pizza from Aeon. Throw on some minced fresh garlic, sliced tomatoes, and any other veggies or meat you like. Add some extra cheese if you can find something you like, especially fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil when it comes out of the oven, and dress with fresh basil if you can find it. Much better than Domino's, easy, and < Y1000. I'd rather blow Y5800 on a decent steak.

As for the good American frozen pizzas (with self-rising crust), DiGiorno is good, but Freschetta is better. I do wish we could see those here in Japan.

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Posted in: Second JAL 787 incident in 2 days raises questions about Dreamliner See in context

You should watch a program called Air Crash Investigations on NatGeo channel.

I actually love that show, despite the fact that I travel (i.e. fly) frequently for my line of work. Some of the incidents portrayed are horrific; nearly all are due to pilot error, poor judgment of weather, or maintenance on the ground cutting corners. The show does a good job of showing how investigators (particularly the NTSB) learn from accidents and put effective corrections and retraining in place. The fact is that air travel in the developed world is safer than it's ever been.

One thing evident from studying plane crashes is that it's rarely one single failure, but rather a cascade of failures (compounded by incorrect or inappropriate human responses) that cause them. We'll have to wait to see a full report before pointing fingers.

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Posted in: Second JAL 787 incident in 2 days raises questions about Dreamliner See in context

With the two incidents with this "dreamliner" and Japanese owned company, the next story would be protestors voicing their opinion to raise awareness on the dangers of aircraft with known problems to flying over populated areas around Japans international airports.

Perhaps we'll see a statement from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick stating that he is "deeply concerned" about these regrettable safety problems, and that two incidents in as many days clearly show a pattern of faulty design, maintenance, or both (regardless of what actually caused the incidents). If we should see a further incident with a JAL aircraft, he may have no choice but to ban JAL from ever flying to Boston again, revoke their FAA certificate (not that a state governor has that authority), or perhaps shut down Logan Airport entirely. After all, these aircraft fly only 100s of feet above the houses of adjacent neighborhoods of Revere, Chelsea, and South Boston. I'll leave it to the residents of Chelsea to devise some pithy slogan to chant outside baggage claim at Terminal E.

Or maybe I'm getting my issues mixed up...

Seriously, Boeing/JAL/NTSB need to get to the bottom of this ASAP. It's entirely possible that the issue could be improper maintenance (either in Boston or Tokyo) rather than a design issue. Incidents aren't completely unexpected with new aircraft - someone else mentioned a number of A380 incidents early on. They can be due to ground crew doing maintenance on a new and unfamiliar aircraft (which can happen anywhere - I wouldn't jump to a language issue). We'll need to wait to hear what the NTSB has to say, but they do a remarkably good job - one of the reasons why air travel now has entered an era of unprecedented safety.

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Posted in: S Korea says Japan must heal wounds of wartime excesses See in context

So American kids spend hundreds of hours studying horrible things American solders did in Vietnam, the unnecessary second a-bombing in Nagasaki, how they treated black people and native Americans in the past ?

Actually, turning a critical eye to some of the darker periods in US history is more common in US history classrooms than you might think. Most good history teachers in the US don't sugarcoat and make sure that the bad is taught alongside the good.

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Posted in: N Korea's Kim says lifting living standards top priority See in context

Kim Jong Un's public profile is quite a change from his predecessors - Kim Jong Il hardly ever spoke in public and as far as I know Kim Il Sung never did. What this signals, I'm not sure. I really, really wish I could be optimistic about a North Korean leader's desire to see living standards raised for the people, but other members of the Kim family have given plenty of false hope in the past.

There's really no incentive for the North Korean government to raise the living standards of the people, if it means loosening their grip on power. They've weathered collapse of their largest benefactors (the Soviet Union mainly), famine, and international ostracism. There's not much reason to believe that a few more years of privation will have an impact on their control.

The government has, however, done a remarkable job of elevating the living standard of the various members of the Kim family - Kim Jong Il did an impressive job of maintaining his cognac budget during the worst of the international sanctions. They've done a similarly good job of elevating the living standards of the most loyal party members who comprise the inner circles of the government and especially the military. But for everyone else, well, give them a taste of what life for their Southern neighbors is actually like, and they're going to have a hard time holding on.

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Posted in: Australia's legal challenge to Japan whaling moves closer See in context

I highly doubt that very many people in Australia are making the decision to buy Japan-made vs. non-Japan-made electronics based mostly on the question of whaling.

International boycotts are tricky. They may be warranted in cases of gross abuses of human rights that the government supports (e.g. South Africa pre-1994) but if the goal is to boycott every country with policies that you don't like, there won't be much left.

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Posted in: As clock ticks, U.S. lawmakers seek fiscal cliff solution See in context

The willingness of many US politicians to take the economy hostage as a means to their ends is one of the most distressing things about this whole mess. The prospect of going off of the "fiscal cliff" seems to be getting some replies of "it's not that bad if we go off of it - the impact on the economy won't be as bad as feared, and even if it is, we'll learn our lesson and get some real change in spending policy." We heard similar claims in resolving the debt ceiling crisis of last year, that it won't be "that bad" if the US defaults on debt payments for a few days/weeks/months.

That kind of thinking works if you have your nest egg saved up and are hoping to avoid a jump on your marginal tax rate of e.g. 35% to 38% down the road. Doesn't work as well if you lose your job because the economy tanks, or you live every day worrying that you're going to.

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Posted in: Australia's legal challenge to Japan whaling moves closer See in context

The results of research the other side is doing is, these beautiful animals will one day become extinct if unless whaling stops.

I wouldn't put all whale species in the same boat (so to speak). The fin whale is endangered, but the minke isn't.

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Posted in: U.S. Marine arrested in Okinawa for trespassing See in context

Yubaru, It is extremely extremely rare that a local Okinawan commits a crime against an American.

It's also (statistically) rare that an American commit a crime against a Japanese citizen, but the debate doesn't seem to be about statistics. It's more about whatever incident makes it into the paper, all counted against some dubiously achievable zero incident rate. I don't think anyone doubts that if this were a local turned up on a veranda at 4am that we'd even be talking about it.

That said, if the allegations are true (intoxicated, out after curfew, no good explanation for why he was there) then he should be punished severely, up to and including discharge. This isn't simply a crime (trespassing) or a violation of orders (curfew), it's an international incident with potential to affect relations between the US and Japan. If he didn't know that before going out to party, then he's not someone I would think they would want around.

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Posted in: U.S. Marine arrested in Okinawa for trespassing See in context

Any crime by police, military, etc. is an abuse of the public trust needs to be punished more harshly than the average citizen, and US Military perhaps more so since they are guests of the Japanese government. But demonization of a whole class (whether police, military, or any other group) is both wrong and not really helpful.

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Posted in: U.S. Marine arrested in Okinawa for trespassing See in context

Finally, the only solution is for the US troops to leave.


Not Okinawa.

Not Japan.

Reducing or eliminating US Military presence in Okinawa has broad support among the residents of Okinawa and is something that the Okinawa, Japanese, and US Governments all agree needs to happen, at least in principle. Progress has been stalled because various parties are dragging their feet (and there's plenty of blame to go around on that).

Reducing/eliminating US Military presence in Japan in general, or otherwise making major changes to the Mutual Security Alliance, is not something that has broad support among the Japanese people. Major changes are something that no Japanese government in 50 years has supported and has not been a major issue in recent elections.

Not being able to make distinctions like this is one of the main reasons why solutions to problems related to US Military presence or Japan's national security policy tend to move at a glacial pace. When the proposed solution to any such problem is "let's scrap the alliance and get rid of the Americans; they've never done us any good anyway" then don't be shocked when meaningful change doesn't actually happen.

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Posted in: Telepresence robots let employees 'beam' into work See in context

It all depends on what line of work you are in. Many lines of work (R&D, Engineering, Software Development) need a huge amount of autonomy and time alone, and can be well-suited to people working remotely, with heavy travel schedules (or from home, if you have the right motivated employees), or different locations working together. But face-to-face conversations can be invaluable if used judiciously.

Also, remote employees often suffer from an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude where it's hard to be recognized and advance at the company if others in the office don't see you often enough, regardless of how good your work is.

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Posted in: China 'highly vigilant' over Japanese fighters flying over disputed islands See in context

Compared to the hundreds of invasions and "police actions" perpetrated by the US since '45,China is quite the international gentleman.

Between China's invasion/'liberation' of Tibet, bellicose stance on Taiwan, invasion of Vietnam, backing of (and fighting with) the aggressors in the Korean War, I'm finding this one hard to swallow. Though the PRC hasn't been as much of a player on the world stage since 1945, owing to internal turmoil and and failed policies that resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese domestically.

I'm not saying that China is looking for war here; I think they realize that all out war would be catastrophic for their economy. They are pushing their might as far as they can and waiting for Japan to blink. But the ideas that the PRC is a largely benign actor and that problems in Asia (and elsewhere in the world) are largely of US making is just fiction.

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Posted in: Okinawa demands investigation into 318 illegal Osprey flights See in context

They are here under a condition of Japan surrendering. Huge difference and one that Okinawa tends to forget.

The US military is present as per the "Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan" signed in 1960. This grew out of a few prior iterations of Security agreements that came out of the surrender, but to say that the US military is still present because of the surrender isn't quite accurate. This is an agreement that Japan could renegotiate but it's worth noting that no major political party in Japan supports this. The fundamentals of the agreement as far as stationing US troops in Japan were not a major issue in the last election.

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Posted in: In fracking culture war, celebs, billionaires and banjos See in context

There are some legitimate environmental concerns with 'fracking' - groundwater contamination being one of the biggest, and much of the drilling is happening in places that depend on groundwater for drinking. But this just means that we need to figure out a way to drill more safely and authorities need to ensure that safety standards are being followed. Extracting fuel oils by fracking shouldn't be abandoned entirely and the technology demonized simply because these concerns exist.

I'm all for reducing dependence on fossil fuels, advancing renewable energy technology, and high standards for fuel efficiency. But the fact is, for the time being we are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and there is cost and downside to any energy source.

are we living in such a mentally-challenged society where the "cool guy" in a Hollywood movie substitutes reason and scientific research?

Yes... =(

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