Japan’s Yakuza Cancels Halloween – Jake Adelstein 10.25.1512:01 AM ET

On Halloween, Japan’s largest organized crime group used to allow children to extort mobsters. But the event was called off this year due to a possible gang war.

raster illustration of  jack o lantern with knife stuck in side; Shutterstock ID 109331504

raster illustration of jack o lantern with knife stuck in side; Shutterstock ID 109331504


TOKYO — It’s been over a month since Japan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, split into two rival factions, and, ever since, people here have been waiting for something to go bump (or be bumped off) in the night.

But it appears the first victim in the looming gang war is nothing more or less than the gang’s annual Halloween festivities, which had become a yearly event at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe.

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.


Why you shouldn’t drive slowly in the left lane – Updated by Joseph Stromberg on May 22, 2015, 9:02 a.m. ET

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

left lane driving

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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Troops and Tanks in Moscow: Russia’s Victory Day – Vice News Published on May 13, 2015

On May 9, Russia commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War with a military parade held in Moscow’s Red Square. In addition to approximately 16,000 troops, the newest military technology in Russia’s arsenal also participated, including the T-14 Armata battle tank.

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.

If America really valued mothers, we wouldn’t treat them like this – Updated by Ezra Klein on May 10, 2015

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.

Cardstore.com sent the video out into the world video with the hashtag #WorldsToughestJob. But here’s the thing about the world’s toughest job: a lot of the people doing it also hold another job, or even a few other jobs. More than two-thirds of mothers hold jobs outside the home, and mothers are the primary earners in 40 percent of families. But in America, public policy makes balancing those jobs a lot harder than it has to be.

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:


Center for Economic and Policy Research

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.

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Obama leads VE Day events in US – BBC News ` May 8 2015 1:30PM ET

President Barack Obama has led VE Day events in Washington, marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two.

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress flies over the Washington Monument

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress flies over the Washington Monument

The president hailed veterans and those who supported the war effort – especially women – calling them a generation that “saved the world”.

For nearly an hour, vintage war planes roared over Washington, symbolising key battles of the conflict that killed over 40m people in six years of war.

Thousands attended the event.

World War II re-enactors salute while the National Anthem plays during ceremony commemorating 70th Anniversary of VE Day at the National World War II Memorial
World War II re-enactors salute the National Anthem
National Mall

There were street parties across the UK and elsewhere in Europe when Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, bringing to a close six years of war.

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Obama:’Climate Change Can No Longer Be Denied’ – AP News Published on Apr 22, 2015

Celebrating Earth Day in Florida’s Everglades National Park, President Barack Obama says the park illustrate the dangers posed by climate change and says the warming of the planet cannot be denied. (April 22)

Martin Luther King’s Compromise That Turned The South Red – Gary May 01.19.15



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to eliminate the poll tax would in the end help poor whites as much as it did disenfranchised blacks.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign in Selma which led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is well known and is now celebrated on screen in  “Selma.” Less well known is how, at a critical moment, Dr. King saved the act when it was stalemated in the Congress.

The stalemate was created this time by liberal Democrats in Congress, not Southern segregationists. Today, Dr. King’s 86th birthday, is a fitting moment to remember how his intervention at the final moment enabled millions of poor whites as well as blacks to vote, with the ironic result that the South has become the most “red” section of America.

The source of the trouble was the poll tax. Civil rights activists, including Dr. King, believed that the tax was a significant obstacle for those who had succeeded in registering  to vote. When Southern whites returned to power after the death of Reconstruction they embedded devices in their state constitutions designed to circumvent the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments—literacy tests, residency and property qualifications, and poll taxes. The intent of the laws was explicit: “The plan,” said one Mississippi official in 1890, “is to invest permanently the powers of government in the hands of the people who ought to have them—the white people.”

And so it was for nearly a century. When Rosa Parks, on her third attempt, succeeded in registering to vote in 1945, she faced one final hurdle: a poll tax of $1.50 cents. That may not seem like much, but black voters were forced to pay it retroactively, so Parks, at 42, paid $16.50 , “a considerable amount of money,” she later noted.

When the Voting Rights Act was submitted to the Congress in March 1965, liberal legislators saw it as an opportunity to abolish the tax. But Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and President Lyndon Johnson were reluctant to support them because of constitutional impediments.

In 1964, the country had ratified the Twenty-Fourth Amendment abolishing poll taxes in federal elections, which meant that only by constitutional amendment could local poll taxes be eliminated. Furthermore, Supreme Court decisions in 1937 and 1951 had found that poll taxes did not necessarily discriminate against blacks and thus did not violate  the Fifteenth Amendment. Eliminating the tax in state and local elections by statute, Johnson feared, might lead the Supreme Court to declare the entire Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, so the Senate’s version of the bill did not include that provision.


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