(3 min) TV-PG It’s one of America’s favorite holidays, but what’s the real story behind the tricks and treats of Halloween?
Each October 31, the gangsters famous for their permanent costumes (tattoos, missing digits and the like) invited ordinary citizens, mostly small children in “scary” outfits, to have fun with extortion, demanding Japanese candies and snacks.
In front of the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters—and yes, all of Japan’s designated mafia groups have well-known headquarters—a sign has been posted in Japanese noting the cancellation of the annual trick-or-treat exchanges:
Every year on October 31st, as per custom, we have held a Halloween [event], but this year, due to various circumstances, the event has been called off. We realize this is causing great regret to those parents and children who looked forward to this, but next year we absolutely will hold the event, so please look forward to it. In great haste, we humbly inform you of this.
The 6th Generation Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters.
The Sankei Shimbun was the first to report these unhappy tidings on October 21, but all through Kobe, certainly, the sad news was reverberating.
It might surprise many in the West that a notorious syndicate which makes its money through blackmail, racketeering, extortion, and other crimes distributed candy to the neighborhood children each year, but the custom fits a pattern.
The Yamaguchi-gumi has been in business since 1915, when it first began as a temporary staffing agency on the docks of Kobe, a port city. The Yamaguchi-gumi has always tried to cultivate good relations with the locals, hosting an annual rice-cake-making event at the start of the year in which the gang distributes food and booze to the locals.
There are basically two types of drivers: those who get worked up about people driving slowly in the left lane, and those who do it all the time and have no idea they’re upsetting everyone else.
it’s not that you’re never allowed in the left lane, just that you should use it briefly, for passing
In case you’re in the second group, some background: every state has some sort of law that discourages people from traveling in the left lane on multi-lane roads and highways. It’s not that you’re never allowed in the left lane, just that you should only use it when necessary, for passing, then get back over.
That’s because even if you’re driving fast, there’s always someone going faster. If you promptly get back over after passing, that car will be able to pass you,allowing everyone on the road to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. If you don’t, it’ll inevitably lead to buildups of traffic and likely raise the chance of accidents.
The system works best when people aren’t hogging the left lane. That’s one reason why National Motorists Association has declared June Lane Courtesy Month in an effort to to raise awareness about the importance of getting out of the left lane.
State laws restrict driving in the left lane
Every state has some law on the books restricting use of the left lane. In 29 states (shown in yellow), the law says any car that’s moving slower than the “normal speed of traffic” should be in the right lane — so even if it’s going at the speed limit, a car that’s not moving as fast as the other cars around shouldn’t be in the left. Georgia has increased the penalty for violating this law to a misdemeanor.
In 11 states (shown in green), the laws are even stricter — specifically saying the left lane is only for turning or passing. Most of the remaining states say cars need to get over if they’re blocking traffic that wants to pass, or if they’re traveling more slowly than the speed limit.
Police are cracking down on left lane drivers
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VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky attended the weekend’s celebrations in Moscow, speaking with attendees who came out to display their patriotism for the motherland.
Last Mother’s Day, a video from Cardstore.com went viral. In it, the company pretended to recruit for a seemingly impossible job. They told applicants that the job requires you to stand all day and put in 135 hours a week — or more. It means you have to work nights and weekends. There’s no time off, and the hours increase around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. The position requires skill in finance, medicine and food preparation. It entails intense physical labor and a total collapse in your personal life. Oh, and it pays absolutely nothing.
They called the job director of operations, but its real title, of course, is mom.
America is, for instance, one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. This map from UCLA’s World Policy Analysis Center tells the tale well: our maternal leave policies make us look more like Papua New Guinea than, say, any country in Western Europe:
Of course, it would be easier for mothers to balance work inside and outside the home if fathers could spend more time parenting. But public policy is even less friendly to that prospect:
Sweden is an example of what it looks like when a country really believes that being a parent is a difficult and important job that needs to be supported by public policy. They guarantee parents 480 paid days per child. Those days can be allocated as the parents see fit until the child is eight years old. In order to encourage fathers to take on more parenting responsibilities, 60 of those days are specifically given to the father.
The United States, by contrast, is an example of what it look like when a country merely pays lip service to the importance of parents. While a handful of states, like California, offer modest paid maternal leave, there’s no federal guarantee of either paid maternal or paternal leave. We make mothers choose between spending a month with their newborn child or keeping a roof over their child’s head. That’s not how it looks in countries that value the work mothers do.
The US doesn’t even ensure that parents get leave that they can use for child care. For instance, a lot of parents (sadly) use vacation days when they need a day off to care for a sick child. But in the US — unlike in every other developed nation — there is no guarantee of paid vacation days:
Nor, of course, is there a guarantee of paid sick days. The Center for Economic and Policy Research looked at guaranteed paid leave policies for workers who got sick with a 5-day flu and a 50-day cancer treatment. The distinction was meaningless in the US, though, as both situations presented the same answer: no guarantee of paid time off at all.