Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Environment Forum:

The power of a soccer ball

Anyone who watched the women's World Cup final might have wondered if it's possible to harness that pure human energy. Turns out, it is. There's enough power in a soccer ball to light the night -- or at least a part of it.

It's done via sOccket, a soccer ball that kids kick around all day, where its movement generates energy. When the sun sets, plug an LED lamp into the ball and it turns into a light for reading or other purposes. Play with the sOccket for 15 minutes and use the light for up to three hours. Sustainable, non-polluting, safe.

SOccket was created to solve a pervasive problem -- the lack of reliable electricity -- with a pervasive game. More than one-fifth of the world's population, about 1.4 billion people, lack electric power, but kids almost everywhere play soccer.

Conceived as a group project at Harvard University by Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman when they were undergraduates, sOccket has been tested in South Africa, Nigeria, Spain and Haiti. Now, Matthews said in a telephone interview, it's on track for mass production and distribution later this year.

Hope and Fear at the World Bank

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It was early March and Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner of International Cooperation Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, was traveling in Asia. Her plan was to attend a 7.5 magnitude earthquake simulation that would hit Indonesia and generate a tsunami. A few things, however, changed in her itinerary: The destination turned out to be Japan, the earthquake was 9.0 and it not only generated a huge tsunami, but also a nuclear catastrophe. Plus, it was real.

“Usually our fears are bigger than reality. In this case our reality was worse than our fears,” Georgieva said recently at a World Bank panel on the climate, food and financial crises the world is facing today and the way they all intertwine. Georgieva’s strong Slavic optimism brightened the gloomy panel, but the data she threw in didn’t back up her positive view:

from MacroScope:

APEC’s robots stealing the show

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A guide at the "Japanese Experience" exhibition talks to Miim, the Karaoke pal robot, on the sidelines of the APEC meetings in Yokohama, Japan on Nov. 10. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

    Miim is one of the more popular delegates at the APEC meetings in Yokohama Japan. She sings. She dances. She tosses her shoulder length hair. She may not be able to spout an alphabet soup of APEC acronyms like the other Asia-Pacific delegates. But she's still pretty lively. For a robot.

from Andrew Marshall:

Risks to watch in Asia: Country guides

For Reuters analysis of risks to watch in Asian countries, kept updated in real time and with graphics and video, click on the links below.

AustraliaChinaIndiaIndonesia/

JapanMalaysiaMongoliaNew Zealand

PakistanPhilippinesSingapore/South Korea

Sri LankaTaiwanThailandVietnam

Japan’s not-so-hot election

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Candidates on the campaign trail in Japan are sweating through the summer heat but voters have been cool towards this Sunday’s upper house election.

Sure, the government won’t change because the ruling Democratic Party will still control the more powerful lower house.

Japan PM gets face-time with Obama

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Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took office earlier this month, hoped to impress voters as he made his debut at a meeting of G8 and G20 leaders in Canada last weekend, but saw media play at home overshadowed by the World Cup and a scandal roiling Japan’s traditional sport of sumo.

Still, Kan did manage to claim one prize from his summit debut – lots of face-time with U.S. President Barack Obama. Kan’s predecessor Yukio Hatoyama quit after just eight months in office in part because he botched up relations with Japan’s biggest ally over the relocation of a U.S. military base on Okinawa. So brief chats with Obama in between sessions, including one on Obama’s love for green tea ice cream, and a full, 30-minute meeting with the U.S. President at the end of his trip should comfort voters. An improvement from a mere 10 minutes Hatoyama was allotted when he met Obama at a nuclear safety summit in April.

Japan’s new “voluntary militia” cabinet under PM Kan

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- Newly-appointed Banking Minister Shozaburo Jimi bows to the Japanese national flag  after a news conference. REUTERS/Issei Kato .

Newly-appointed Banking Minister Shozaburo Jimi bows to the Japanese national flag after a news conference. REUTERS/Issei Kato .

When Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshito Sengoku, was asked — as new Japanese leaders often are — to characterise the government’s new cabinet line-up, he fumbled a bit and then awkwardly said something about it being “fresh and hardworking.”

from Andrew Marshall:

Political risk in Asia: What to watch this week

JAPAN-POLITICS/

My regular roundup of key Asian political risk themes to watch in the week ahead, with links to the news stories and analysis produced by Reuters correspondents across the region.

JAPAN GETS A NEW PRIME MINISTER (AGAIN)

Japan has its fifth prime minister in three years -- Naoto Kan, 63, a fiscal conservative with a reformist image.

Japan prime ministers haunted by ever-present media

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Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a news conference on April 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)


JAPAN-POLITICS/It’s not unusual for a politician whose popularity has slumped to want to avoid the media. But for Japan’s premiers it’s not just a question of keeping critical newspaper editorials out of sight.

MP’s nosedive mirrors Japan leader’s sinking ratings

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With voter popularity for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sinking to new lows, there was little sympathy even when a lawmaker from his Democratic Party fell flat on her face in parliament last week. Internet chatrooms and blogs have accused Yukiko Miyake of  faking her fall, which the Democrats blamed on a shove by a stocky opposition party lawmaker.  Footage of the scene in slow motion has flooded YouTube. One comment: “Miyake needs acting lessons”.

Just  9 months ago, the government’s support ratings stood above 70 percent after the Democrats won a landslide election, ending a half-century of nearly non-stop conservative rule. Miyake was one of many first-time lawmakers on whom voters pinned their hopes  for change – reviving the economy, cutting wasteful spending and fixing the pensions system. But polls now show the Democrats may struggle to win an election for parliament’s less powerful upper house, expected in July. Failure to win a majority risks policy deadlock at a time when Japan needs the political mandate to push through reforms and cut huge public debt.

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