"What if Trump?"—"Moshitora"

Moshitora, a Japanese word that had slipped into the background has re-emerged as Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail. The word moshitora which means "what if Trump", was first used during the 2016 election. It reflects Japan's concerns about the implications of a potential second Trump term for US-Japan relations. 

Businesses also see Trump as a risk because of the protectionist policies that were put in place during his first tenure. As Japan foresees the possibility of Trump becoming president again, therefore, it's making an effort to talk to people close to him to make sure the US makes decisions that have Asia's best interests at heart.

Ippei Mizuhara pleads guilty

The story that had taken many twists and turns since March finally came to an end as Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter, pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud. He admitted that he stole nearly $17 million from the baseball star to cover illegal gambling debts.

Mizuhara also confessed that he evaded tax of more than $1million in 2022. He is yet to be sentenced, but it's said that he is likely to spend about 30 years in prison for bank fraud, and additional time for tax fraud​.

Changing the role of the police

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to advocate for change, one of the many calls has been to redefine the role of the police in the U.S. Excessive use of force by officers has sparked criticism, leading to calls for alternative methods. Several proposals have started to emerge and be implemented in response.

Most of these alternatives are focused on ways to restructure public safety by reducing the scope of situations in which the police are automatically in charge. One suggestion is to train specialized nonviolent officers to handle nonviolent issues, such as conflicts on the road. Unarmed traffic police officers could receive conflict resolution training to address these situations. By emphasizing peaceful resolutions, encounters can be de-escalated.

Changes in the job market

In the US, the labor market is slowing down. Around 250,000 workers found new jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, last April.

However, few jobs are hiring at the moment. Employers are looking for highly skilled individuals and cutting unnecessary jobs. Some of the industries hiring are professional and business services, health care, leisure, and hospitality. There is also high demand for specialized construction contractors and food service experts. Professional and business services had the biggest increase, adding 43,000 jobs. Employees in this industry made an average of $40.20 per hour.

Leading across cultures

In the work environment, unexpected misunderstandings often arise as a result of cultural differences in leadership styles. Americans, for example, see themselves as egalitarian and think of the Japanese as hierarchical. But American leadership seems to be unclear. This is mainly because American bosses are outwardly egalitarian—relating with subordinates on a first name basis and encouraging them to participate in meetings—they can be extremely top-down in the way they make decisions.

It's very common for people of different cultures to struggle with mutual incomprehension. The main reason for this is managers' failure to differentiate between two important aspects of leadership culture.

The perfect-sized coffee cup

Most Americans love to buy a lot of coffee—I learned this when I traveled through the country with an 8 oz reusable cup. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to drink this amount of coffee, by the time you reach the last drop, it's almost cold but not quite. I think that's a perfect size. But, the cafe staff I met did not.

In the San Diego airport, I asked for "this cup, full of coffee." The staff examined my cup like a foreign artifact. He wondered aloud how big it was. When I told him 8 oz, he looked confused, and then charged me for the smallest size they have—12 oz. I paid and didn't say anything.

Then in the Los Angeles airport, I asked for the same thing. The young woman working there was equally surprised by it. She looked at the till, frowned, and then looked over her shoulder, and said, "They're just gonna overcharge you." So she took the cup and filled it with coffee for free. I guess, to her, that's fair. I said thanks.

Women workers united in the 1800s

The city of Lowell, Massachusetts, was famous for its textile mills during the Industrial Revolution. In the 1830s, around 8,000 women worked at the mills. The working conditions were terrible. The air inside the mills was full of dust. Women worked 13 or 14 hours a day for very low pay.

In 1834, the mill owners decided to pay the women even less. The women were angry and joined together to fight the owners. They went on strike (refused to go to work) until they got their wages back. But the owners wouldn’t agree, and the women had to go back to work. 

Will US hedge funds go bankrupt?

An interesting situation has emerged in the American stock market. It has caused the stock of several companies to be extremely volatile.

Hedge funds in the US have opened so many short positions—basically, they have bet that stock prices will fall. Now it is believed that they have short sold more than the number of shares available on the market.

However, savvy retail traders noticed this. They started to buy up these shares in large volumes in the hope to push up the price.

Trading has been so aggressive that the share prices have wildly fluctuated and multiple brokers have been refusing to even allow purchases. The situation has gotten lots of attention, with multiple members of congress showing interest in the behaviors of brokers and hedge funds. Some have called for congressional inquiries.

It isn't clear what the aftermath will be. Only time will tell.

Preventing gun crime in Japan

In 2014, there were just six gun deaths in Japan (≈0.00000004% of the population), compared to 33,599 (≈1.0% of the population) in the US.

Buying a gun in Japan takes patience and perseverance. First, you need to attend an all-day class, then sit a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%. There are also mental health and drugs tests to pass.

Afterwards, your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. They even check your relatives and co-workers. Police have the power to deny gun licences and sweeping powers to search and seize weapons. In addition, handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

Art crosses borders between people

The California-based architects Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael have transformed a stretch of the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. into an international playground. The pair installed three hot pink seesaws between the slats of the fence where Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, abuts Sunland Park, New Mexico, allowing people on both sides of the increasingly militarized border to play together.

In an Instagram post, Rael said, “The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations, and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.” He added, “The joy that was shared this day on both sides is something that will stay with me forever.”

[See Ronald Rael's Instagram post here.] 

Any shoe is better than a wet shoe

When Addy Tritt was 25 years old, she went to her local Payless shoe store in Hays, Kansas, a few years ago. She didn’t intend to walk out with the last of the store’s inventory.

The store was going out of business and had slashed its prices. When the last 204 pairs of footwear dropped to $1 each, Tritt figured she could buy some and donate them somewhere. 

“My pile just kept growing bigger and bigger,” said Tritt. She finally went up to the sales associate and asked, “Can you get me a deal on all of these shoes?”

After a few phone calls to the Payless corporate office, Tritt was in possession of all the remaining shoes, valued at approximately $6,000. She purchased them for about $100.

“I’m a college student. I don’t have a lot of extra money to be throwing around,” she said. “I don’t know why I did it―I just did. It’s part of being a human.”

Are bans on plastic bags harmful?

It was only about 40 years ago that plastic bags became standard at U.S. grocery stores. This also made them standard in sewers, landfills, rivers and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They clog drains and cause floods, litter landscapes and kill wildlife. The national movement to get rid of them is gaining steam, with more than 240 cities and counties passing laws that ban or tax them since 2007. But these bans may be hurting the environment more than helping it.

According to research by economist Rebecca Taylor, the introduction of plastic bag bans in California in 2016 reduced the state's plastic waste by 40 million pounds per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says.

Different standards for the wealthy

In the US, the widespread belief that the poor are simply lazy has led many states to impose work requirements on aid recipients—even those who have been medically classified as disabled. Limiting aid programs in this way has been shown to shorten recipients’ lives, creating a difference of more than 20 years in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.

When the wealthy are revealed to be drug addicts, philanderers, or work-shy, the response is at most a collective shrug. At the same time, behaviors indulged in the rich are not just condemned in the poor, but are used as a justification to punish them, denying them access to resources that keep them alive, such as healthcare and food assistance.

Trump praises attack on journalist

The British government has joined press freedom advocates and journalists in expressing dismay and disgust with Donald Trump's remarks at a rally, where he praised the unprovoked assault on a Guardian US journalist by the state's congressman, Greg Gianforte.

Trump fondly reminisced about the physical assault that occurred on 24 May 2017 when Jacobs, the Guardian's political correspondent, asked Gianforte a question about healthcare policy in the course of a special congressional election in Montana.

In a statement, PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression, said Trump's "Explicit praise" for Gianforte's assault "marks a startling new low in terms of the White House's open hostility toward the press".

The world tidies with Marie Kondo

In 2016, two years after the English translation of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” became a best-seller, Marie Kondo moved to Los Angeles to establish her home organization consultancy in America. Amidst her culture shock, the Japanese native soon realized her new country also provided something that her homeland did not: unprecedented levels of clutter on which to practice her art.

Apologizing to Japan

This is an op-ed—meaning it is the author's personal view—from The New York Times.

For nearly the last two decades, Japan has been held up as a cautionary tale, an object lesson on how not to run an advanced economy. After all, the island nation is the rising superpower that stumbled. And Western economists were scathing in their criticisms of Japanese policy.

In January 1990, Japan's stock market crashed. Property values fell 87%. The Bank of Japan lowered the interest rate from 6 percent to 0.5 percent by 1995, but it didn't revive the economy

These days, I often find myself thinking that we ought to apologize.

Exchanging desk jobs for farming

After more than a decade working in tech, Kimbal Musk (brother of famous technologist Elon Musk) decided to lean into his true passion: local food. He now runs a chain of local food-focused restaurants called The Kitchen, as well as Big Green, a national nonprofit that builds educational gardens in public schools.

So it might not be surprising that he expects a growing number of young Americans to join him in the local farming movement.

When asked to name a big food trend looking forward into 2018, Musk said he sees millennials flocking to careers in agriculture rather than traditional office jobs.

Is McDonald's a foreign agent?

A Russian politician proposed labeling American fast food chains like McDonald's and KFC as foreign agents, following recently passed legislation which provides the same classification for international news outlets.

Boris Chernyshov, a 26-year-old Moscow lawmaker in the federal Russian Assembly, described advertisements made by American restaurants for Russian consumers as manipulative and nontransparent about their longterm health effects. The State Duma deputy added that chains like McDonald’s, available across Russia, were contributing to the decline of the nation's cuisine, according to local reports.

The latest measure to classify news outlets like CNN and Washington Post as foreign agents followed the U.S. requiring Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik to register under the same label. Not even three days later, the Russian lawmaker took the tit-for-tat a step further by once again pulling food chains into the feud.

Senate passes self-driving car bill

In America, on a unanimous voice vote, a Senate committee approved legislation that authorizes self-driving car makers to sell as many as 80,000 vehicles a year within three years that would be exempt from current safety standards as manufacturers develop technology for autonomous vehicles.

The legislation only allows for the exemption—which gives car makers the chance to test and design new technology while potentially foregoing traditional standards for items such as the placement of controls and displays, rear-view mirrors or protection from the impact of steering wheels in a crash—in cases where manufacturers can show the exempted car or component is as safe as that already on the road.

 “This is cutting-edge technology that is advancing extremely fast,” said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters. “It’s going to happen a lot sooner than people realize. This is not decades—it’s a matter of a few years.”