TIME China

Ikea’s Chinese Stores Invite Customers to Take a Snooze

China is host to eight of Ikea's 10 largest stores, which come with extra room displays given visitors' tendencies to spend all day at the store. Unusually, these stores encourage customers to sleep on the furniture, placing signs authorizing them to do so. And after a hard day's shopping and eating meatballs, many seem to have taken up the offer

TIME Japan

Japanese City Urges ‘Smartphone Curfew’ on Teens

Teenagers in Kasuga are facing lonely nights after education authorities advised a nightly ban on smartphones between 10pm and 6am

The education board of a Japanese city has said junior high school pupils should stop using their phones after 10pm, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In the city of Kasuga, education authorities have encouraged students to surrender their phones to adults between 10pm and 6am Though the board has support from local schools, there are no penalties in place for those who disobey.

A survey conducted by the Japanese cabinet office in November and December of last year found that over half of students aged 13-15 owned a cell phone.

Of the 52% that did, nearly half owned a smartphone. This is a staggering leap from 2010 when only 2.6% of those with cell phones had smartphones.

The Japanese government has voiced concerns about excessive internet use amongst children. Their website warns of the risks of such use, citing cyberbullying, leaks of private information and use of pay sites as possible examples.

This latest campaign by authorities in Kasuga came after discussions with parent-teacher associations concerned about smartphone use amongst teens.

Posters and leaflets have been sent to the city’s six junior high schools asking them to observe the ban.

Kasuga’s campaign follows the city of Kariya who started a similar campaign, with a curfew of 9 p.m., in April.


TIME Japan

Typhoon Neoguri Barrels Toward Japan

Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014.
Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014. NOAA/EPA

"This is not just another typhoon"

A “once in decades” storm is approaching Japan’s southern islands with winds up to 150 mph, the country’s weather agency said according to Reuters.

Typhoon Neoguri was south of Okinawa on Monday afternoon local time, but moving northwest with sustained winds of 110 mph. The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued high sea warnings and storm advisories for the Okinawa island chain and other parts of southern Japan, forecasting that the super typhoon will grow into an “extremely intense” storm by Tuesday.

“In these regions, there is a chance of the kinds of storms, high seas, storm surges and heavy rains that you’ve never experienced before,” a JMA official said at a news conference according to Reuters. “This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is approaching.”

The state minister in charge of disaster management canceled a planned trip to the United States.

Okinawa is home to most of the U.S. military facilities in Japan, and Kadena Air Force Base, one of the largest, was taking measures to prepare for the storm.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa. This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years,” Brigadier General James Hecker, the base commander, wrote on the Facebook page. “This is not just another typhoon.”

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Meets With Sex Abuse Victims

Pope Francis held a meeting with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Monday. It was his first such meeting since he became pontiff in March 2013.

The pope met the six victims separately after they attended a private morning Mass at the Vatican, the Associated Press reports. Of the six, two are from Ireland, two from Britain and two from Germany. Each spoke with the Pope for around 30 minutes.

During the Mass, the Pope gave a homily in which he apologized for the abuse. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves,” the Pope said.

The pontiff added: “all bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.”

Though this is his first meeting, the Pope has always been clear in his condemnation of sexual abuse by the clergy. He previously described their actions as “satanic”.

Nevertheless he has faced criticism for not meeting with abuse victims sooner. The previous pope, Pope Benedict, met with abused people several times on international visits.

Amidst criticism of the Church’s failure to tackle abuse, Pope Francis did improve the Vatican’s laws against child abuse last year. The Pope has also created a committee to tackle the issue. Amongst the committee members are an abuse victim and a cardinal. The committee is expected to announce Monday that it will incorporate more members from the developing world onto its board.

However, he also controversially claimed in an interview this year that the Catholic Church had done more than any other organization to expose pedophilia. “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.”

Over the past 10 years, 3,420 credible charges of sexual abuse have been referred to the Vatican. To date, 824 members of the clergy have been stripped of their office.


TIME Japan

Japan Is Planning to Resume Whale Hunts

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Visits New Zealand
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media after a traditional Maori welcome at Government House and talks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on July 7, 2014, in Auckland. Fiona Goodall—Getty Images

Trade talks turned to whale rights in New Zealand as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted a revival of his nation's "scientific" whaling program

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, during trade talks in Auckland that Japan intends to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Key said he was told of Tokyo’s plans to build a scientific whaling program that is in line with the International Court of Justice’s recent guidelines, but made his position clear that all whale hunting should cease, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “New Zealand’s view is there is no place for whaling, scientific or otherwise,” said Key.

In March, Australia and New Zealand won a legal case against Japan’s government-subsidized whaling program in Antarctica. The court found that the scheme was carried out predominantly for commercial purposes, instead of scientific research as claimed.

Abe dodged reporters’ questions on whether or not Japan will resume whaling. “We will abide by the verdict of the International Court of Justice, but in any case there are different positions in regard to whaling,” he said.

[Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

TIME East Asia

North Korea to Send Cheerleaders, Athletes to South for Asian Games

Pyongyang's cheerleaders have previously been lauded by Seoul for their meticulous choreography and peaceful cheers, and Kim Jong Un even made one of the delegation his wife

North Korea announced on Monday that it will send a cheerleading squad and 150 athletes to the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Sept. 19, in a display of goodwill incongruous with several weeks of intermittent missile and rocket launches amid bellicose rhetoric.

The longtime adversaries remain at odds over a civil war from 1950 to ’53 that was never properly resolved. North Korea last week fired several short-range rockets into the sea ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the South Korean capital Seoul during which Pyongyang’s nuclear program was discussed.

The North’s cheerleaders, who have been lauded by the South in previous visits for their meticulous choreography and peaceful cheers, will ostensibly be dispatched to build tolerance between the neighbors, reports Reuters. “It is necessary to put an end to all kinds of calumnies and vituperation that foster misunderstanding and distrust among the fellow countrymen,” read a government statement, according to the North’s state KCNA news agency.

These overtures come just as young North Korean despot Kim Jong Un oversaw a mock military assault on a South Korean island on Saturday. Last week, North Korea also demanded that Seoul end its annual joint military drills with the U.S., although this was met with flat refusal.

Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the South Korean government, said organizers would discuss the North’s proposal of sending a cheerleading squad and athletes to the event, reports the South China Morning Post. North Korea also sent cheerleaders to the Asian Athletic Games in Incheon in 2005. Leader Kim has since married one of the cheerleaders from the squad, Ri Sol Ju.


TIME China

On a Wartime Anniversary, China Steps Up Its Anti-Japan PR Campaign

A woman reads from an inscription on the Marco Polo bridge, or Lugouqiao, in west Beijing on Sept. 3, 2013. Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

Generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary comes amid simmering geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers

On the evening of July 7, 1937, and into the next day, Japanese soldiers began making their way across the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, beginning a ruthless eight-year occupation that ceased only with imperial Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II. As far as anniversaries go, 77 may not be a particularly iconic number. But the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that it would be conducting rare live coverage of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident commemoration.

First up in the morning was a “grand gathering” at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing, which was attended by China’s President Xi Jinping. “We firmly take the path of peaceful development and safeguard world peace,” said Xi in a speech, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state media agency. “History is history and facts are facts. Nobody can change history and facts. Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify history will not find agreement among Chinese people and people of all other countries.” Xi also unveiled what Xinhua called an “anti-Japan war sculpture.”

The generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary appears to be part of an effort by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to highlight Japan’s brutal wartime past, at a time when geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers are simmering. Last week, Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through a controversial reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution that allows the nation to engage militarily in order to defend its allies should they come under attack. The notion is known as collective self-defense.

Abe’s administration also issued a report last month that reviewed the process by which a 1993 Japanese government statement was made apologizing for the systematic sexual enslavement of Asian women by the Japanese military. While the review did not result in any overturning of the Kono Statement, just the fact that a reappraisal was conducted enraged both the Chinese and South Korean governments, who have accused Abe and his conservative cohorts of diminishing Japan’s wartime abuses.

Amid a territorial spat over uninhabited isles in the East China Sea, a July 7 Xinhua editorial on Japan opined, “War is hell, but there are always devils who try to spark war and trample peace under foot.” (The editorial did also concede that “Japanese people are respected for their diligence and energy-saving awareness.”)

Last week, the Chinese State Archives Administration announced that it would begin releasing confessions by Japanese who were convicted as war criminals by China’s Supreme People’s Court. The full texts of the 45 confessions are being released daily online. China is also applying to UNESCO to have documents related to the Nanjing Massacre and Chinese comfort women (as the women forced to sexually service Japanese soldiers are called) added to the Memory of the World Register — a move that has gained popular support on Chinese social media. Earlier this year, China’s rubber-stamp parliament designated Dec. 13 as a national remembrance day for the Nanjing Massacre.

Earlier this year, I visited Nanjing to tour the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, which ensures that the six-week slaughter that began in late 1937 is not forgotten. The museum welcomes 6 million visitors a year with a permanent exhibition called “A Human Holocaust.” Photos and videos show women disemboweled after they were raped, along with piles of Chinese corpses. A vast graveyard of pebbles represents the lives stolen by Japanese soldiers.

Museum director Zhu Chengshan was scathing in his appraisal of Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, whose grandfather directed industrialization efforts in Manchuria, the northeastern Chinese region that Japan turned into a puppet regime and where imperial soldiers carried out horrific crimes, including biochemical experiments on civilians. “Japan has consistently denied its mistakes and says it loves peace but [these are] empty words,” Zhu said. “A lot of serious criminals were let go and some became the Prime Minister of Japan, like Abe’s grandfather. Abe is taking Japan to the right but there is not just one Abe. There are many other people in Japan like him.”

But Chen Guixiang, 91, a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre, was more forgiving. She recalled, through tears, how her grandmother was murdered by Japanese soldiers. Fearful of being raped or killed, Chen, then 14, hid in a hole for three months, her legs atrophying from the confined space. She shared museum director Zhu’s antipathy toward Abe but didn’t hold an entire nation accountable. “I think the Japanese government was pro-war and evil,” Chen said, “but the Japanese people are good.”

After we talked, Chen shuffled out of the museum, past massive sculptures representing anguished figures brutalized by Japanese soldiers. The number 300,000, which China estimates as the death toll of the military rampage, is emblazoned repeatedly on an outdoor wall of shame. On July 7, People’s Daily posted a picture of this wall on its home page. The day before, a new website was launched to publicize the Nanjing Massacre, a joint effort by the Memorial Hall and official news agency Xinhua. Those who visit the website will be able to light virtual candles to honor the massacre’s victims, so they will never be forgotten.

With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Nanjing

TIME Africa

Report: More Than 60 Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors

People gather near burned vehicles by the crowded Monday Market in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on July 1, 2014 AFP—Getty Images

The daring escape comes after days of heavy fighting in northeast Nigeria

More than 60 girls and women kidnapped in northeast Nigeria last month by suspected Islamist militant group Boko Haram have reportedly fled their captors.

Their escape was confirmed to news agency AFP by a high-level though unnamed security source in the restive Borno state.

A local vigilante, Abbas Gava, also said he had “received an alert from my colleagues … that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home.”

More than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April are still being held by Boko Haram, which seeks to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the country’s north.

The development follows Friday’s clashes between Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram militants in Borno. At least 50 insurgents were killed as the Nigerian military repelled an attack on its military base in the town of Damboa, said the Defense Ministry on Saturday.

Six Nigerian soldiers, including the commanding officer, died during the fighting, said Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade.

An officer who requested anonymity told the AP that the raid appeared to be a reprisal attack by Boko Haram after the Nigerian military carried out devastating air strikes 24 hours earlier.



TIME Middle East

Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza Kill 7 Hamas Militants

Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hits Gaza City on July 3, 2014 Hatem Moussa—AP

Largest number of fatalities suffered by the group in a single military action since 2012

A series of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip left seven Hamas gunmen dead early on Monday morning — the largest number of fatalities suffered by the Islamic group in a single military action since a border crossing into Israel in 2012 that resulted in 180 Palestinian deaths.

Israeli military authorities said in a statement that the drone strikes were targeted at nine “terror” areas in order to stop “rocket attacks against southern Israel” directed by Hamas, reports Reuters. The Israeli military added that Hamas had launched 150 rocket strikes from its Gaza stronghold since mid-June. Hamas said the seven Palestinian fighters were killed at Rafah, a southern Gaza town near the Egyptian border, which has a large Hamas presence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned that any larger retaliation against Hamas was to be avoided, as the militant group had rockets capable of reaching far into Israeli territory including Tel Aviv, its financial center. But he advised his Cabinet “to do whatever is necessary” to regain peace in the disrupted communities in southern Israel.

Rising tensions in the area have been catalyzed by several days of clashes in eastern Jerusalem following the July 2 murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, al-Jazeera reports. Palestinians say the murder was revenge for the kidnapping and slaying in late June of three Israeli teens whose bodies were found near Hebron, a Hamas stronghold. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the deaths.


TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Lawless War Zones Recede as Rebel Fighters Fall Back

Ukrainian service members walk in the center of Slavyansk, Ukraine on July 6, 2014. Genya Savilov—AFP/Getty Images

A sense of order and accountability begins its return to some of the war-torn areas of eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels flee the towns that served for months as their chaotic bastions

Only a few of the residents of the city of Slavyansk had the misfortune of going down into the basement of the local security headquarters, but most people in eastern Ukraine had heard of its existence. It was underneath the redbrick building on Karl Marx Street where the Russian rebels had set up their command center. Since Slavyansk became the rebel citadel in April, the basement has housed a variety of prisoners inside its rank and moldy walls, from journalists and local politicians to unlucky locals. Over the weekend the last of them were finally released as the separatist fighters retreated from Slavyansk, leaving the basement behind as a symbol of the nightmare from which this city now seems to be awakening.

Many aspects of the fighting in this town of 120,000 made life unendurable over the last few months, which is why up to half of its residents have fled. There were food shortages, power cuts and rebel-enforced curfews, not to mention the weeks of almost indiscriminate shelling by the Ukrainian army. But even before the government forces encircled the city in May, a sense of fear and frustration hung over it. It was usually expressed in one word that locals grumbled to themselves as the war ground on: bespredel, which means lawlessness or mayhem, and it has taken on a peculiar meaning in Ukraine this year.

In the sense of a total absence of government authority, the word first applied to life in Ukraine for a few days near the end of February, when a revolution chased the ruling government from power and all branches of the state collapsed overnight. Within a week, the lawlessness in Kiev subsided as the revolutionaries formed a new government. But it quickly resurfaced in the region of Crimea as pro-Russian separatists took power with the backing of the Russian military, and then it spread across the country’s eastern regions as a Russian backlash to the revolution took hold.

Only then did the mayhem take on its most lasting and grotesque quality. If the presence of Russian troops in Crimea gave that peninsula a semblance of military order during the Russian occupation, there was no such thing around Slavyansk and other towns in the eastern regions of Ukraine. They were abandoned throughout April and most of May to the separatist fighters, who established weird little fiefdoms across the region. Most were Russian volunteers who seemed to treat the conquest of Ukrainian land like a righteous crusade, driving around in commandeered vehicles and ransacking government buildings. Others were local criminals who reveled in their sudden impunity, hassling motorists at roadblocks made of trash and tires, and generally doing as they pleased.

Some of them, to be sure, were driven by a brand of Russian nationalism, the ideology that claims eastern Ukraine as the rightful dominion of Moscow, with the sincere desire to break Donetsk and Luhansk away from the rule of Ukraine’s new government and offer these territories up to Russia. But when the Kremlin refused to send in its tanks to conquer eastern Ukraine as it did with Crimea, the rebels grew increasingly erratic and authoritarian.

Locals would be detained and thrown into the basement on Karl Marx Street almost on a whim. Anyone the rebels perceived as disloyal to the separatist cause became targets, journalists included. My closest run-in with the rebel fighters of Slavyansk took me as far as the stairwell leading down into their basement, where they put a bag over my head and interrogated me about being a Western spy, releasing me only to avoid what one of their commanders called “international scandal.” Other captives were not so lucky. Simon Ostrovsky, an American reporter for Vice News, spent three days in that basement. Irma Krat, a journalist and activist from Kiev, spent more than two months down there, sleeping with only a rotting mat between her and the concrete floor.

There were no courts or higher powers to appeal to for their release. Russia has denied having control over the separatist forces, and it has only used its influence among them sparingly to win the release of hostages, usually military observers from Europe. For most of the time the only authority in Slavyansk was the whim of the rebel commanders. The most recent of these was Russian military veteran Igor Girkin, whose chambers were just above the basement prison in Slavyansk. His authority derived from the column of military vehicles that stood outside their headquarters, and from the cache of weapons his rebels had stored inside.

But in the past few weeks, their hold over the town began to erode under the hail of Ukrainian artillery fire, and it finally collapsed on Saturday, when Girkin ordered all of his men to quit their positions in Slavyansk and the neighboring towns. Before dawn they withdrew toward the regional capital of Donetsk, where they have pledged to continue their war. But the pervasive command they held over Slavyansk cannot be enforced in Donetsk. It is just too large – with a population of nearly a million – and there is no basement big enough to hold all the locals who want nothing to do with the separatists.

That does not mean the rebels have been defeated. The neighboring region of Luhansk is still dotted with their strongholds, close to the supply lines that run across the porous border with Russia. So the fighting there is sure to continue, as are the hardships of the local residents in the towns abandoned by the retreating separatists. The airstrikes and artillery fire from the Ukrainian army has caused massive damage to these towns, reportedly killing or wounding numerous civilians. As government forces retake control, many of the locals may be detained or charged for collaborating with the separatist fighters. But at least they no longer face the risk of being thrown into that dungeon. The lawlessness, at least in and around Slavyansk, is finally receding.

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