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Two Filipinos arrested for operating black market bank | The Japan Times Online

Hawala

Hawala, from the IMF website. Click image to visit.

Update: California has just enacted a law that requires

“money transmitters–companies that act like banks, but aren’t, such as PayPal–to get licenses. As usual, however, the devil is in the details. Previously, California corporations were only required to get money transmitter licenses for international funds transfers, and domestic transfers were unregulated. Now both kinds of transfers are regulated. Also, the price of each license is a little bit steep: half a million dollars and change. Oh, and if you want to do business nationwide, you’ll need 43 more of those licenses from almost every state. The forms and requirements are different everywhere, most states want your fingerprints to do a criminal background check (the exact same criminal background check, it turns out), and the price varies wildly from a measly $10,000 to $1,000,000+ per state. Want the forms? Good luck finding them; some states don’t post them on-line.”

via In Fifty Days, Payments Innovation Will Stop in Silicon Valley | Quora

Let me get this straight: two people who were performing a service for their customers – transferring funds to the Philippines – were arrested for … satisfying their customers? Providing a service? Charging commissions for providing this service? What is the crime, exactly? Ah! Depriving banks of potential income!

This sounds like a hawala system, a perfectly legal and ancient system, as explained in this article on Lewrockwell.com. See also the explanation on the IMF website. Hawala goes by different names in different cultures. In the Philippines it’s apparently called Padala. So this article seems to be saying that Hawala is illegal in Japan. Or at least the police think it is. This is another victimless crime. According to the article itself, no-one was ripped off or defrauded and no-one complained to the police.  It’s probably the official banks who are mad about seeing all this potential cash bypassing them: they want their cut, they deserve it!

The IMF website tells us, In earlier times, IFT [informal fund transfer] systems were used for trade financing. They were created because of the dangers of traveling with gold and other forms of payment on routes beset with bandits.

And who are the modern bandits in this case?

the hawala system… is less expensive, swifter, more reliable, more convenient, and less bureaucratic than the formal financial sector. Hawaldars charge fees or sometimes use the exchange rate spread to generate income. The fees charged by hawaladars on the transfer of funds are lower than those charged by banks and other remitting companies… The system is swifter than formal financial transfer systems partly because of the lack of bureaucracy and the simplicity of its operating mechanism; instructions are given to correspondents by phone, facsimile, or e-mail

And that’s wrong! wrong! WRONG!

Two Filipinos have been arrested for allegedly operating an underground bank to remit money from Japan to the Philippines, police said Thursday.

The police believe they remitted over ¥1 billion to the Philippines and allegedly charged commissions of 3 to 5 percent on each transaction. The police arrested them for allegedly accepting ¥70,000 last October and November from two Phillipinos living in Gifu and Mie and remitting the money to the Philippines.

via Two Filipinos arrested for operating black market bank | The Japan Times Online.

 

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Japan utility head resigns over nuclear crisis – Yahoo! News

Damage control!

Damage control! (image from Keeping it Real in Oman)

Tepco’s (former) CEO could take some lessons in apologizing from Mike Rogers. Shimizu has done the honourable thing, but I dunno. The timing’s all wrong. He either should have done this much sooner, or much later. At this time, with the situation at Fukushima appearing to be still highly dangerous, this guy’s talk of “closure” just seems like quitting.

The president of the Japanese utility behind the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl said Friday he was stepping down in disgrace after reporting the biggest financial losses in company history.Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Masataka Shimizu, criticized for his low profile during the disaster’s early days, said he was resigning to take “responsibility” but vowed that the utility would continue doing its “utmost” to bring the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant under control.Fuel rods appear to have mostly melted at three of the plant’s reactors after a March 11 earthquake triggered a tsunami that knocked out cooling systems. Leaking radiation has prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents, and the perilous struggle to contain the reactors is expected to continue into next year.The crisis raised serious questions about the lax oversight of Japan’s nuclear industry, and prompted the country to scrap plans to rely on nuclear power for one-half its electricity needs — up from its current one-third.”I am resigning for having shattered public trust about nuclear power, and for having caused so many problems and fears for the people,” Shimizu told reporters, bowing in a traditional Japanese apology during a news conference.”I wanted to take managerial responsibility and bring a symbolic close,” he said.

Renewed safety fears have caused the government to shutter the Hamaokoa nuclear plant…

via Japan utility head resigns over nuclear crisis – Yahoo! News.

“Renewed safety fears”. Translation: “oops! the government’s lax oversight has become public knowledge. Damage control!”

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asahi.com(朝日新聞社):Google opens new website for ‘lost towns’ in quake – English

Google's 未来への記憶 website. Click to visit.

Google Japan Inc. on May 16 launched a website service to enable online users to view photographs and video footage–contributed by Google users–of the quake-devastated areas before the Great East Japan Earthquake.This new website, called “Mirai-e-no-kioku”Memories to be cherished in the future, is collecting these photographs and video footage from not only area residents but also from those who visited there before the quake and make them available to the public. The images and footage collected will be safely stored in Google’s data center.

via asahi.com(朝日新聞社):Google opens new website for ‘lost towns’ in quake – English.

And here’s a link to the Google site itself (all in Japanese): http://www.miraikioku.com/

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Energy Shift Japan! | Japan For Sustainability

A friend forwarded me a ezine from Japan For Sustainability. (I’m a little leery of the term “sustainability”, especially after reading this article by Jeffrey Tucker, but let that pass). It included synopses of a number of interesting articles, some of which I might introduce here later, and I also discovered this map:

Trends in Electric Power Suppliers and Municipalities with Nuclear Power Plant

Trends in Electric Power Suppliers and Municipalities with Nuclear Power Plant

Trends in Electric Power Suppliers and Municipalities with Nuclear Power PlantsThe massive earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 caused tremendous damage, and at the same time, this earthquake and the following tsunami have triggered a serious nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. TEPCO. Meanwhile, this accident has spurred the country to review about nuclear power generation. In this context, we will deliver you information about moves in electric power suppliers and municipalities that have nuclear power plants, as well as trends in the nuclear power policy at the government level.We will do our best to carry out the whole process of summarizing related news reports in Japanese, translating them into English, and uploading them to this webpage within three days after coverage by the Japanese media, with the aim of conveying you this kind of information on a real-time basis. However, please note that we, Japan for Sustainability, is operated mainly by volunteers and that there is only so much we can do.

via Energy Shift Japan! | Japan For Sustainability.

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The Japanese abandon “jishuku”. And about time

There’s been a lot of talk about “jishuku” in Japan, especially for the first month after the earthquake. Although the word simply means “self-restraint”, as usual in Japan the term is intimately linked to “what other people (might) think”. So jishuku, like so many things in Japan, has a tendency to turn out to be a principle that is actually a form of peer-pressure in disguise.

There may be people of principle who perform jishuku naturally, as a form of self-discipline, as part of their integrity, but I suspect they are few and far between.

As I’m a rugged Western individual who will never, ever, ever succumb to peer-pressure (what’s that dear? Yes. Yes, I’ll be finished with the computer soon. Yes, you’re right, an hour is quite long enough, yes dear), I never really liked the jishuku, such as dimming lights or wearing dull clothes. What is this? A wake? Indeed, there’s a case to be made for the recent post-earthquake jishuku as an expression of mourning.

On a recent trip, I noticed something missing in the landscape  – these:

Putting up carp streamers

Koi nobori - Japanese carp streamers in May

Where the heck where they all? At this time of year, end-April/early May, they are usually all over the place. It must be jishuku.

Then, way out in the sticks, I saw some. Not just 1 or 2 or 3 on a single pole, but what looked like hundreds strung across a river. Ha-ha! Yaa-boo-sucks to tsunami-gloom and earthquake panic and nuclear-crisis-neurosis, they seemed to say. I looked at them and cheered, not just the carp-streamers themselves but the folks who had abandoned that silly old jishuku and boldly celebrated life and colour, and tradition. Don’t they look great?

carp streamers across a river, by Ruma

Photo by Ruma at Calligraphy in the Landscape: Children's Day in Wind

Then on May 5th, I saw a news item about a high-schooler in the tsunami-hit area who had lost his family in the disaster, and who put together a long line of koi-nobori streamers and hoisted them above the town. Yay! (I can’t find the news item online, maybe someone can? I did find these though):

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Calligraphy in the Landscape: Breathing of the land

Here is another Lady English Blogger, tho in Kyushu, not in Nara, Calligraphy in the Landscape.  Beautiful photography and poetry. Somehow these days, poetry and flowers seem to soothe my soul. In fact, it is only when I see the flowers or read the poetry, that I realize how thirsty my soul is.

The quiet smile lingered by itself in the shade of fresh verdure.
 Time to wait for somebody.

 I forget the moment.

The cheerful air will warm all.
 … become active.

 The throbbing pulse of life reminds of new situation.

Each of these is lovely… 

Breathing in the Land

"Each of these is lovely..." Breathing in the Land, by Calligraphy in the Landscape

via Calligraphy in the Landscape: Breathing of the land.

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After Disaster Hit Japan, Electric Cars Stepped Up – NYTimes.com

i-MiEVE by Mitsubishi Motors

i-MiEVE by Mitsubishi Motors. Click image to visit iMiEVE homepage

Now here’s a great example of good business thinking and action. Also a very smart PR move by Mitsubishi Motors. TEPCO should fire Shimizu’s ass and get someone like Prez Masuko.

With oil refineries out of commission and clogged roadways slowing deliveries, finding gasoline had become a challenge. Shortages were so acute that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces had to truck in gasoline; donations of diesel fuel were accepted from China. Yet in Sendai, about 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, and other cities ravaged by the earthquake, electricity returned within days. Taking stock of the situation, the president of Mitsubishi Motors, Osamu Masuko, offered dozens of his company’s egg-shaped i-MiEV pronounced “eye-meeve” electric cars to affected cities.

via After Disaster Hit Japan, Electric Cars Stepped Up – NYTimes.com.

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Spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi – Martyn Williams’ posterous

Here are the latest images from TEPCO of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The video and images 1 through 3 show the sampling of water in the spent fuel pool of Unit 4 on April 12. The pictures make more sense when you’ve seen the video, so I recommend you watch it first. TEPCO used a crane to lower a vessel into the pool to collect water.

Images 4 and 5 were taken on April 14 from the concrete-pumping vehicle that’s being used to direct water into the spent fuel pool at unit 3 and show the pool.

Images 6 and 7 come from the T-Hawk remote controlled helicopter and show reactor building 1 on April 14.

via Spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi – Martyn Williams’ posterous.

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Guerrilla Hoarding – Wendy McElroy – Mises Daily

A timely article on the libertarian site Mises.org on hoarding. Although it is not directly related, and makes no reference to, the Japanese disaster, it is a pertinent topic.

Maruetsu store, Tokyo, 19:18, March 16th, 2011

No bread, but most Japanese eat rice anyway - photo by Mike Rogers

After the Japanese disaster in March, it soon became apparent that there was a) a dire need for certain goods, and b) that there was a growing shortage of these goods in an ever-widening area of Japan. This was because people were either buying them for themselves or buying to send to needy relatives and friends in disaster-hit areas.

Even in areas unaffected by the disaster, such as Kansai or Kyushu, batteries and torches and bottled water were soon sold out and unavailable. People in disaster-hit areas were obviously buying these things like crazy because they needed them immediately. People in more distant areas were also buying up these and similar items and sending them to needy friends and relatives. Yet more people also bought these kinds of items “just in case” and because they could see that these items were quickly running out and who knows when supplies would be restored?

Inevitably, government officials came out and urged people not to buy certain desperately needed items in bulk, such as batteries and bottled water. Of course, the temporary scare of radioactive iodine in the Tokyo water supply did not help matters, and the government had to hand out bottled water to mothers with infants.

However, the Japanese government was not chiding people for stock-buying, but making a pretty sensible request and for a reasonable reason that most people could agree with: the people directly affected by the disaster need these items more than you do; please help avoid short supplies by not buying more than you immediately need. The same was true for electricity. The shortage of electric power may be felt most strongly in the coming summer, even more than now.

Below is an article that explains why governments tend to criticize hoarding in general. This is not exactly the case in Japan at the moment – most people understand the need the refrain from hoarding or panic buying at this time, and are willing to go along.  However, the principles revealed in the article remain true pretty much across cultures.

The argument is really the old one of “who, whom?” Who gets to tell whom what to do? The Japanese way of doing things blurs this issue because rather than giving direct orders, they prefer people to come to a common agreement autonomously. So commands become requests.

A common example of hoarding is stocking up on durable grocery items — such as canned goods, rice, or pasta — when they are on sale, so that your family has a years supply of staples in the house. In rural areas, this is known as “keeping a good pantry.”Historically, governments have frowned upon hoarding. Especially in bad economic times, stigmatizing the hoarder for “causing” high prices or shortages because he buys more than his “share” serves a useful political purpose. They divert attention away from government policies, such as tariffs, that are the true cause of empty shelves and high prices. By stirring up resentment toward neighbors who own one more can of peas than you do, politicians avoid the full and just brunt of public anger…

Hoarding, like any other human activity, can become obsessive. But in its common form, hoarding is nothing more than preparing for the future by laying aside a store of items you and your family may need. This is an especially valuable practice during economic instability, when necessary supplies can become scarce or suddenly double in price.

The Austrian investment counselor Jack Pugsley once explained another perspective on hoarding: it is an investment. A low-income family may not be able to afford precious metals, but they can afford to invest in dry or canned consumables. Last year, with some frequency, my grocery store sold a 900-gram package of pasta for 99¢. With wheat shortages, and with the American government diverting almost 30 percent of corn crops into producing ethanol, food products dependent on grain have skyrocketed. The same package of pasta now regularly costs $2.99. If a struggling family bought 60 packages of the 99¢ pasta for a future consumption of one package a week, then their hoarding would have knocked perhaps $100 off their grocery bill. By consistently buying more than they immediately need of bargain items, the family can build a solid pantry to sustain them through unemployment, inflation or scarcity.

A key point is that it is sensible to prepare: do so well ahead of time, and without drawing undue attention to yourself.

The navy man’s fate is a cautionary tale in more than one way. The store of food for his family was discovered because a grocer and neighbors informed upon him. Thus, a sad corollary to the wisdom of hoarding food for your family is the need to do so with discretion. This is sad, because the natural impulse of people in a community is to assist those in need. Measures like the Food and Fuel Control Act mean that sharing food with a neighbor who has hungry children is no longer simply a gesture of compassion and generosity; such government acts make sharing into a danger to your safety and your own children’s well-being.

There is still time to hoard the items upon which your family depends. Prices are rising, to be sure, but the full force of inflation and shortages is probably several months in the future. Hoard now; hoard quietly.

via Guerrilla Hoarding – Wendy McElroy – Mises Daily.

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One Time One Meeting: Sakura・・・・・

Another Nara lady English blogger with beautiful photos. Cherry trees in full bloom. I’m so glad they are not restraining themselves.

A deer is quietly eating petals of Sakura. Photo by narastoryteller

Sakura or cherry blossoms have been long loved by people in Japan. Sakura bloom and fall. And they love from the beginning (even before the beginning) to the end, every phase of Sakura. They see beauty in those blooming Sakura, and admire scattering Sakura as 花吹雪‐flower blizzard. Fallen petals on the water are appreciated as 花筏‐flower raft.

via One Time One Meeting: Sakura・・・・・.

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