Whitewashing war crimes, attacking civil liberties in Japan


This video says about itself:

UN human rights panel calls on Japan to provide compensation to its wartime sex slavery victims

24 July 2014

A UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime system of sex slavery.

The call comes as two elderly victims continue their mission in the United States to raise awareness about the horrors they faced.

Park Ji-won reports.

Two victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery visited the city of Glendale in California this week.

It’s where a monument dedicated to them and the thousands of other victims,… a bronze statue of a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing,… is set up.

“Please help us, the victims, receive an apology before we all die.”

Lee Ok-seon says she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was only 15,… and sent to a military brothel.

To this day,… the Japanese government denies its military operated the brothels, despite a huge amount of evidence that shows the military did.

The two women, now in their late 80s, spoke out against some Japanese Americans and Japanese officials who want the statue removed.

“They’re saying really inhumane things.”

Both women will stay in the U.S. for another couple of weeks.

They’ll travel to Virginia and New Jersey and to other monuments set up in memory of all those who suffered under Japan’s cruel system of sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, a UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime sex slave victims before it’s too late.

The UN Human Rights Committee said Thursday that, after reviewing the records of several countries,… it’s concerned about the re-victimization of the former sex slavery victims.

The panel criticized the Japanese government for continuously denying its responsibility and even defaming the victims,… rather than taking the necessary steps to help them.

The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, also noted that every compensation claim brought by victims has been dismissed, and every call to ask for independent investigation on the sex slavery has been rejected in Japan.

Park Ji-won, Arirang News.

From the Japan Times:

Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan?

by Jeff Kingston

May 16, 2015

Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

British children asked to imitate bitterns


Chris Packham asks children to imitate bitterns

After the red deer sound imitation contests … and the Tyrannosaurus rex sound imitation contest for children … now BBC wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham asks children up to yen years old on Twitter to imitate bittern sound for BBC TV program Springwatch.

This is a video about a bittern, February – March 2014, Belarus.

Rupert Murdoch censors Pablo Picasso


Tiepolo, La Verità svelata dal Tempo, uncensored version

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister of Italy. He had become a rich man by television shows full of women with hardly any clothes on. Still, Berlusconi censored a painting by the 18th-century Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Berlusconi censored it because on that painting there was a woman (symbolizing Truth) with a naked breast. That breast was censored.

Berlusconi used to be friends with Rupert Murdoch then. Not anymore later. Like Rupert Murdoch also used to be pals with Tony Blair. But he also quarreled with Blair later.

Still, Murdoch has quite some things in common with Berlusconi. Including, as boss of Fox News, censoring women’s breasts from famous paintings.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Art critic rips ‘sexually sick conservatives’ after Fox channel blurs out breasts on Picasso painting

14 May 2015 at 15:06 ET

Lucy Westcott
Posted with permission from Newsweek

The Women of Algiers (Version “O”), a painting by Pablo Picasso, became the most expensive work to ever sell at an auction this week. Sadly, some TV viewers of a New York affiliate of Fox were treated to a blurry, G-rated version.

The painting, which sold for $179.4 million at Christie’s auction house in New York on Monday night, shows several female figures in the Cubist style, including several pairs of breasts and a couple of errant nipples. Fox 5, the Fox affiliate in New York City, obscured three pairs of breasts and covered up two nipples with a news banner at the bottom of the screen.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, in censored Rupert Murdoch version

The decision by Fox 5 to blur part of the female anatomy was blasted by Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, who took to Twitter on Wednesday night.

“How sexually sick are conservatives & Fox News? They blurred parts of the Picasso painting,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag #SickMinds. …

The 1955 painting, which Picasso began in 1954, was sold after 11 minutes of bidding, the BBC reports. The final price, including a 12 percent commission fee, was $179.4 million, beating the previous world record of $142.2 million set in 2013 by Francis Bacon’s painting Three Studies of Lucien Freud. The final price for The Women of Algiers (Version “O”) far surpassed the original estimate of $140 million.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, uncensored version, at the auction

British elections and corporate media sexism


This video about the British election campaign says about itself:

Leaders’ debate: ‘Farage should be ashamed’ on HIV – Leanne Wood

2 April 2015

The leaders’ debate first clap went to Plaid Cymru‘s Leanne Wood, after she told Ukip leader Nigel Farage that he should be ashamed of himself.

Mr Farage had been talking about the treatment of immigrants with HIV on the NHS.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

Why are we so afraid of the idea of women in power?

Saturday 9th May 2015

Women have been sidelined and written out of history due to a longstanding notion of what constitutes the ‘natural order,’ writes LOUISE RAW

IN the run-up to this election, you may have noticed the mainstream media noticing something very particular — the leaders of the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are not men. They’ve been falling backwards off their chairs.

Excitement has been considerable, with some commentators opining that feminism can now pack up its bags and go home — its work here is done.

But is that really the case? The tone of much of the commentary suggests not. We might have expected the tabloids to take more interest in the women’s hair and clothes than their gravitas — and so they did, with the odd publication ranking the women in order of attractiveness.

But consider James Ashton on Plaid’s Leanne Wood, in the Independent (even before it essentially declared for the Tory Party): “Less fierce than Nicola Sturgeon, less shrill than Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood has emerged from three-and-a-half hours of prime-time television as the leader you’d most likely invite around for a cup of tea.”

Shrill? Fierce? Cups of tea? Can you imagine David Cameron or Ed Miliband being rated in those terms? I’ve met Bennett, and a calmer, more measured woman you’re unlikely to meet. Nor does the Sturgeon I’ve seen and heard in the media bear any resemblance to the woad-clad Braveheart, roaring and rattling her sword at the English, who is supposed to be making my blood run cold.

Such are the workings of sexism and misogyny. Women in the vicinity of power must be reduced, made manageable, diminished. And if they refuse to, as the wonderful Ngozi Adichie has it, shrink themselves, then they are a threat, and we will demonise them.

Behind it all lies the idea that women attaining power is new. If something’s a novelty, it’s not tried and tested. It could fail, be a passing phase, a mistake — could even lead to disaster. It might also be a threat to that extremely subjective concept, so infinitely malleable to such a variety of arguments — the “natural order.”

Naturally, this is a crock. As socialists, by definition somewhat at odds with the system we live under, we should find it easy to accept and challenge that kind of cant (not a typo). And yet ideas about the dodginess of women in power seep into all our consciousnesses.

How can they not, when every other billboard tells us women are here to ornament, to compete with each other for men, and at the mercy of hormones, periods and other bodily unpleasantness?

The history of women’s lives is fudged, blurred, ignored, not taught. No wonder some believe its chronology was essentially: Dawn of time; babies; cooking; cooking; nothing much… (millennia pass) … 1960s! Miniskirts! The pill! Working women (secretaries, etc)!

If you skew the facts like this, it’s easy to think nature has been usurped, and that this explains all modern social malaise. It’s feminism — boys no longer know how to be men, women feel they have to have careers and are unhappy in them, kids are neglected, you can’t even open a door for a woman without being arrested, political correctness gone mad, yada, yada.

Just as we’re messing up the environment, we are messing — at our peril — with the essential nature of men and women.

Whereas in “the old days…” This would all have been music to John Knox’s ears. The Protestant preacher and reformer pulled no punches when he titled his 1558 polemic The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. By “regiment” he meant “rule” — there wasn’t some 16th century marching army of uppity women, sadly. What really got Knox’s goat was Catholic queens like Mary of Guise. To rail against them, he went straight to the “it’s not natural” box (“monstruous” means “unnatural” here). “For who can denie but it repugneth to nature … that the weake, the sicke, and impotent persones (yup, that’s women) shall norishe and kepe the hole and strong, and finallie, that the foolishe, madde and phrenetike shal gouerne … and such be al women.”

Foolish, mad, frenetic — ringing some shrill, fierce bells? Like any modern Twitter troll, Knox published anonymously, but authorship quickly became known and shot Knox stupendously in the foot. That same year, Protestant Elizabeth I took to the throne. She took umbrage at Knox’s insults to female sovereigns and put a complete block on his involvement with the English Protestant cause after 1559.

But if men were arguing against women’s power in the 16th century, clearly there’s nothing new about the concept. In fact, we can go back much further — anthropologists have shown us women hunting and fully involved in “pre-historical” societies. The evidence is there, should we care to see it, for ancient Egyptian women working, including as brewers, medieval women in every trade from fine art to construction and powerful in the guilds, militant women weavers on strike in 1788 — it’s a long list, covering every historical period imaginable.

But there’s profit in “othering” women and keeping all of this quiet. If you tell people for long enough that they’re not capable, it will sink in. Though they know, intellectually, that it’s not true, some of that will be internalised.

Companies make millions telling women they are unacceptable as they are, and must constantly improve every physical aspect of themselves. Wax that body hair, be thinner, prettier, younger-looking — and then we just might treat you nicer. Black and Asian women are sold skin-bleaching products and must straighten or otherwise Westernise their hair.

Mothers are told their most important new job is getting “their body back” post childbirth (where did it go? Who is snatching the corporeal form of new mothers? We should be told).

This is women’s true life’s work, and a handy distraction from that pesky pay gap. Rape, domestic abuse, street harassment, FGM? Nothing a new pair of shoes can’t make better.

It has been capitalism’s most successful trick to make the majority of citizens of the world feel unequal to holding power — from the divine right of kings to “scientific” treatises on the inadequacies and lack of full humanity of black women and men, women generally, and the working class, it’s been done relentlessly and well.

We can’t do better than writer and theorist Bell Hooks here, who has long warned against the interconnectivity of race, capitalism and gender both creating and perpetuating systems of oppression and class domination.

But few white feminists are introduced to Hooks’s work. Even those who fight for liberation are made to feel they can only operate in their own limited spheres — class, race, religion, gender — all are absolute divides we cross at our peril, we are made to believe.

So white feminists can talk about their Muslim sisters, but not to them — they’re “naturally,” or at least culturally, anti-feminist, aren’t they? Also we’d probably offend them somehow. No wonder the marvellous Sara Khan of Inspire Muslim Women, who challenges gender discrimination in Islam, is writing a book on how the left has failed Muslim women.

All the mainstream parties, and all of us as individuals, need to utterly and publicly reject divisive thinking right now. The protests, opposition and strength under impossible duress of our sisters and brothers in Gaza, Ferguson and Baltimore and the young mothers fighting enforced homelessness in Britain cannot but impress and teach us that we must talk to Muslim women, black women, working-class women — and, yes, men — not just when we want their votes, but constantly.

As socialists — especially if we’re white — it’s incumbent upon us to do this, too. Yes, we might misunderstand, tread on cultural sensitivities, get it wrong — so we will learn, listen, fight our own privileges, and do better. We cannot be silent any longer and we must no longer allow ourselves to be divided. We need to remember that “divide and rule” carries within it an equal and opposite potential — unite and conquer.

Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light: the Bryant & May Matchwomen and Their Place in History (Bloomsbury). The 2015 Matchwomen’s Festival is on July 4 in Canning Town. Discounted advance tickets now available at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/matchwomens-festival-2015- tickets-16082194276. Children’s tickets are free.