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July 23, 2008

Hope I die before my village does

Japan once again maintains the strange. via | timesonline.com | Japan's 62,000 dying communities
Even by the standards of rural Japan Kamiura is a quiet place but it takes a while to realise the full extent of its strangeness. The abandoned houses are the first sign. A bare field lies where there used to be a school but it is only after several miles that you notice the people. The fishermen tending their boats, the farmers in the fields and the housewives gossiping in their gardens: all of them are elderly. You can drive for miles without seeing a young face. For Kamiura is at the epicentre of rural Japan's population crisis - one of tens of thousands of villages threatened with extinction. A government survey last year listed 62,000 “communities on the edge”, where mass migration to urban areas had robbed them of the young, leaving behind only the old and the very old. These are places where parents in their nineties are cared for by offspring in their seventies, where schools are closing because they have run out of children and where the bored-looking lads slouching round the streets are not teenagers but disaffected septuagenarians.

July 21, 2008

Wild mustang or feral horse?

Federal Agency Proposes a Euthanasia Program for Its Herd of Mustangs - NYTimes.com

The champions of wild mustangs have long portrayed them as the victims of ranchers who preferred cattle on the range, middlemen who wanted to make a buck selling them for horsemeat and misfits who shot them for sport. But the wild horse today is no longer automatically considered deserving of extensive protections.

Some environmentalists and scientists have come to see the mustangs, which run wild from Montana to California, as top-of-the-food-chain bullies, invaders whose hooves and teeth disturb the habitats of endangered tortoises and desert birds.

Even the language has shifted. In a 2006 article in Audubon magazine, wild horses lost their poetry and were reduced to “feral equids.”

“There’s not just horses out there, there’s other critters, from the desert turtle in the south to the bighorn sheep in the north,” said Paula Morin, the author of the book “Honest Horses.”

July 19, 2008

Beijing sgutting down for three weeks to clear pollution before Olympics

Beijing begins massive Olympic shutdown - Yahoo! News

BEIJING - Beijing's Olympic shutdown begins Sunday, a drastic plan to lift the Chinese capital's gray shroud of pollution just three weeks ahead of the games.

Half of Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles will be pulled off the roads and many polluting factories will be shuttered. Chemical plants, power stations and foundries left open have to cut emissions by 30 percent — and dust-spewing construction in the capital will be halted.

In a highly stage-managed Olympics aimed at showing off the rising power of the 21st century, no challenge is greater than producing crystalline air for 10,500 of the world's greatest athletes.

Fair Use getting its day in court

Serious YouTube test of copyright law

This could have enormous and far-reaching effects on the internet.

A woman who posted a home video on YouTube of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" squared off Friday against entertainment giant Universal Music Corp. in a federal court case that tests copyright law.

The issue in Stephanie Lenz's lawsuit against Universal is whether the owner of the rights to a creative work that's being used without permission can order the Web host to remove it without first considering whether the infringement was actually a legal fair use - a small or innocuous replication that couldn't affect the market for the original work.

Lenz's lawyers, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say her 29-second video, with fuzzy camerawork and unclear sound, was such an obvious noncommercial fair use that Universal should have to reimburse her for the costs of taking it out of circulation for more than a month last year.

The company's lawyers say the 1998 federal law that authorized copyright-holders to issue takedown orders didn't require any such inquiry - in fact, they argue, there's no such thing as an obvious fair use.

No court has ever addressed the issue, said U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, who is presiding over the case.

The AP is about to become very, very different

Is Fournier saving or destroying the AP? - Michael Calderone - Politico.com

[The new president of the AP wants the] 162-year old wire to move from its signature neutral and detached tone to an aggressive, plain-spoken style of writing that Fournier often describes as “cutting through the clutter.”

In the stories the new boss is encouraging, first-person writing and emotive language are okay.

So is scrapping the stonefaced approach to journalism that accepts politicians’ statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument. Instead, reporters are encouraged to throw away the weasel words and call it like they see it when they think public officials have revealed themselves as phonies or flip-floppers.

The new approach was on display in a Liz Sidoti news analysis written earlier this month with the lead, “John McCain calls himself an underdog. That may be an understatement.”