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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 28, 2007

Written by C.N.

AsianWeek’s Racist Opinion Column

For some time now, I’ve been a fan and supporter of AsianWeek magazine, a free weekly news-magazine published in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I have now lost virtually all of my respect for them after they printed an opinion piece by one of their regular columnists, Kenneth Eng, entitled “Why I Hate Blacks.” As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Eng’s column has set off a storm of controversy and backlash against AsianWeek:

Eng called himself an “Asian supremacist” in January in another installment of the column, which runs under the label “God of the Universe.” Prominent Asian Americans immediately condemned Eng’s current column. “The hate is based on ignorance and is very similar to the rationales that the KKK uses against African Americans,” said Henry Der, director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “What gives me the greatest concern was AsianWeek’s judgment in printing such a piece out of context,” Der said. “It is so trite and hateful, it doesn’t speak well for the publication.” . . .

Eng’s “reasons” for hating black people include: * “Blacks hate us. Every Asian who has ever come across them knows that they take almost every opportunity to hurl racist remarks at us.” * “Contrary to media depictions, I would argue that blacks are weak-willed. They are the only race that has been enslaved for 300 years.” * “Blacks are easy to coerce. This is proven by the fact that so many of them, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, tend to be Christians.” . . .

Leaders of the Asian Law Caucus, Asian American Justice Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action and other groups and individuals began circulating a petition Friday calling for the paper to apologize, terminate its relationship with Eng, print an editorial refuting the column and review its editorial policy. The leaders’ statement, issued in Washington, D.C., called the piece “irresponsible journalism, blatantly racist, replete with stereotypes and deeply hurtful to African Americans.”

Beyond the excerpts quoted in the article, I haven’t read Eng’s column and AsianWeek has since pulled it from its website. Nonetheless the excerpts are enough for me to join the chorus of other Asian Americans — for that matter, other human beings — and denounce it as unequivocally racist and unimaginably ignorant, and AsianWeek’s decision to publish the piece as blatantly irresponsible and completely unprofessional. For that reason, I have decided to remove AsianWeek from my list of APA news links on this blog.

Of course, free speech gives Eng the right to have an opinion about anything or anyone he wants. But that freedom of speech also gives the rest of us who have some intelligence the right to call his opinion deeply offensive and to call him an embarrassment to the Asian American community — or for that matter, to the human race.


Update: On Feb. 28, 2007, AsianWeek issued a statement and apology. It reads in part:

AsianWeek rejects Eng’s biased views on a critical segment of American society, African Americans. While AsianWeek continues to truly believe in diversity of opinion and freedom of the press, we are also very aware that the promotion of hate speech is not appropriate, nor should it be encouraged. . . . [T]he failing of our editorial process in allowing this opinion piece to go forward, was an insensitive and callous mistake that should never have been made by our publication.

We will be reviewing that editorial process and making any changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again. The condemnation of this serious lapse in editorial judgment was rightfully taken by civic and community leaders and organizations. . . . [W]e are humbled and overwhelmed at reader response not only chastising our editorial process, but strongly urging our paper to sever all ties to this contributor. We have heard the call and Mr. Eng has been terminated from writing for the paper.

I applaud AsianWeek for issuing the apology and admitting that the publication of such racist garbage was a serious breakdown in judgment on the editorial staff’s part. However, you cannot simply just say sorry and walk away from an offense as heinous as this. For AsianWeek to regain the trust and respect of the Asian American community, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.

That is, some initial suggestions that come to mind are that they need to first fire the editor who approved this piece in the first place, have a community forum to discuss their monumental failure, devote an entire issue to the positive relationships between Blacks and Asian Americans, and show their face in the Black community to support their issues and needs. This is just the beginning. AsianWeek, the ball is still in your court. Until then, my opinion has not changed nor am I ready to forgive anything.

February 27, 2007

Written by C.N.

Japan Still in Denial About Comfort Women

Most Asians and Asian Americans know by now (or at least should) that during World War II, the Japanese military forced an estimated 200,000 women from lands that it invaded and occupied to serve as sex slaves, or what the Japanese euphemistically call “comfort women.” More than 60 years after the fact, Japan’s government is still in denial about their actions, most recently illustrated by their opposition to a resolution recently passed in Congress:

Japan has expressed its displeasure at a resolution before the US Congress calling on Tokyo to apologise for the country’s use of sex slaves in wartime. Foreign Minister Taro Aso said the resolution was not based on facts. Sponsored by several members of the US House of Representatives, the proposed text urges Tokyo to formally resolve the issue of so-called “comfort women”. Japan admits its army forced women to be sex slaves during World War II but has rejected compensation claims. . . .

Mr Aso described the non-binding resolution, which was introduced in Congress earlier this month, as “extremely regrettable”. “It was not based on objective facts,” he told a parliamentary committee meeting. The resolution calls on Japan’s prime minister to “formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility” for the comfort women. The House of Representatives heard last week from three former comfort women who described the rape and torture they endured at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

Japan acknowledged in 1993 that the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war. The government set up a special fund in 1995, which relies on private donations to provide compensation. But many former comfort women reject the fund and want formal compensation from the government.

This is getting ridiculous — despite Japan officially acknowledging that their military did in fact set up and run brothels for its troops during the war, their Foreign Minister still says that the basis for this current resolution is “not based on objective facts?” What the hell is this guy smoking? For that matter, what has Japan’s government been smoking all these years to allow them to be in such complete denial about their actions?

If there were any instance in which a country needed a collective slap across the face to help them wake up and join the rest of us in the 21st century, this would be it.


Update: As further evidence that Japan’s government not only still has its head up its ass, but is actually jamming it in even further, recently, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied that Japan ever coerced women into serving as sex slaves during World War II. Wow . . . absolutely amazing.

Another Update: Predictably, Abe’s denial that Japan ever coerced an estimated 200,000 women into sexual slavery provoked outrage around the world, particularly among many of its Asian neighbors. Now, Abe says that he “basically stands by the 1993 apology” in which a high ranking Japanese official acknowledged such allegations were valid. Abe is now calling for a new investigation into the atrocities.

I suppose this is a sign of progress and encouragement. However, until Japan officially acknowledges and apologizes for what it did, nothing will change nor will my opinion of Japan’s position on this issue.


Another Update: On March 16, 2007, Japan has once again and not surprisingly concluded that there is no evidence that the Japanese military forced women to serve as sex slaves during World War II. What’s the name of that river in Egypt again? Oh yeah, “Denial.”

February 26, 2007

Written by C.N.

US to Cede Control of Military to Korea

The issues and controversies surrounding the presence of the U.S. military in South Korea have been well-documented by now — nationalist autonomy, incidents of U.S. military raping South Korean women, the U.S. accused of provoking North Korea, etc. With these issues in mind and in the context of the U.S.’s deepening war on terrorism, we now have news that the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to turn control over South Korea’ military back to the South Koreans by 2012:

The agreement ends a 50-year pact that gave the US wartime command of South Korea’s army, dating to the Korean War. Under pressure in Iraq, the US had wanted to hand over in 2009. But South Korea pushed for a slower transition. The US currently has 29,500 troops on the Korean peninsula and Seoul’s military numbers 680,000. North Korea has more than one million troops. . . .

The US has reduced its troop numbers in South Korea by 10,000, down from 40,000 when US President George W. Bush came to power. It plans to further reduce this number to 25,000 by 2008. . . . South Korea ceded control of its military to a US-led UN force during the Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire in 1953. It was given peacetime command of its forces in 1994 but the US would still take over should war break out on the peninsula.

It’s interesting to note that it was actually the South Koreans who wanted the U.S. to retain control longer than the U.S. wanted to. I suppose that just goes to show that despite South Korea’s official “Sunshine Policy” of reconciliation towards North Korea, deep down it still fears that their northern neighbors are capable of losing it at any time and attacking South Korea at a moment’s notice.

I’m not an international military policy expert, but my impression is that in the end, all other things staying the same, this transfer of power and reduction in U.S. forces in South Korea are likely to lead to an easing of tensions with North Korea, as well as a big step toward satisfying South Koreans who are resentful of the U.S.’s presence in their country, so I see this as a positive development. But knowing Kim Jong Il’s instability, anything can happen between now and 2012 . . .

February 25, 2007

Written by C.N.

Marriage Tours Match Korean Men & Vietnamese Women

Recently, there have been several articles in the news about different Asian countries pledging closer ties with each other and to promote more cross-cultural interactions. But I’m not sure if this is what they generally had in mind — more South Korean men have been using marriage brokers to find wives in Viet Nam — they travel to Viet Nam to pick out their wife, marry and honeymoon there, then return with their new wife to South Korea:

More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem. . . .

Now, that industry is seizing on an increasingly globalized marriage market and sending comparatively affluent Korean bachelors searching for brides in the poorer corners of China and Southeast and Central Asia. The marriage tours are fueling an explosive growth in marriages to foreigners in South Korea, a country whose ethnic homogeneity lies at the core of its self-identity. In 2005, marriages to foreigners accounted for 14 percent of all marriages in South Korea, up from 4 percent in 2000. . . .

Critics say the business demeans and takes advantage of poor women. But brokers say they are merely matching the needs of Korean men and foreign women seeking better lives. . . . Both Ms. Vien and Ms. Thuy had friends who had married Korean men and lived, happily it seemed, in South Korea.

Like many Vietnamese, they were also avid fans of Korean television shows and movies, the so-called Korean Wave of pop culture that has swept all of Asia since the late 1990s. The Korean Wave has transformed South Korea’s image in the region, presenting the country as having successfully balanced tradition and modernity, a place that produces coveted Samsung cellphones and cherishes family ties.

The article goes on to describe a typical marriage brokering process between a Korean groom and his much younger Vietnamese bride. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, it’s probably true that demographics don’t lie — Korean men have fewer choices these days in terms of the size of the spouse pool in Korea, and that many of these Vietnamese women would probably have a “materialistically” better life in Korea compared with staying in Viet Nam.

On the other hand, there have been and still continue to be documented instances of fraud and spousal abuse regarding such “brokered” (we would probably also include “mail order” types as well) marriages in regard to American men marrying Russians or Asians, or Asian men marrying other Asian women, etc.

Ultimately, I don’t have a problem with these kinds of brokered marriages if there are proper safeguards in place — psychological tests for the men or at the very least, criminal background checks and other forms of full disclosure so that the women know exactly what they’re getting into, and have a reasonably easy means of terminating the marriage if they’re unsatisfied.

As someone who’s married inter-ethnically myself, I support efforts to promote more cross-ethnic and cross-cultural ties and relationships between different Asian ethnic groups. We just need to make sure that everybody is on the same page to ensure that this type of process goes smoothly and happily.

February 22, 2007

Written by C.N.

Ten Things to Know About Asian American Youth

Like Asian Americans in general, young Asian Americans frequently find themselves admired, reviled, misunderstood, and/or the subject of curiosity, all at the same time. Nationally-renowned performance artist Kate Rigg and SnapDragon consultants want to change that and, as published by Yahoo News, has come up with a list of Ten Things Every Brand Should Know About Asian-American Youth:

  1. Many Asian-American youth feel excluded and misunderstood by most brands. It’s made worse by the fact that they see advertisers actively wooing the African-American and Hispanic markets.
  2. Mixed race kids are proudly identifying as Hapa, a once derogatory word in Hawaiian to mean “half.” Hapa is also slang for marijuana in Japanese (spelled Happa). Hapa is supplanting terms like Amerasian, biracial, and blasian.
  3. Asian-American youth are secret fans of “easy listening” adult contemporary music. Lite FM is a hidden passion.
  4. There’s a “hero gap” among Asian-American kids, which is being filled for many by activists from other cultures. Martin Luther King is a role model and hero to many young Asian-Americans.
  5. Most Asian-American kids refer to white people as “white people” the same way African-Americans do.
  6. Underage gambling is huge. The “new” American poker obsession is nothing new to Asian-American kids. Gambling has a long history in Asian culture. Many students Rigg spoke with are avid online gamblers and card players. Some organize private online poker tournaments.
  7. Asian-American kids want an end to the hyper-nerdy images of themselves on TV and want to see more punked-out skater and graffiti DJ images which reflect a different energy. The feeling is: Enough with the math geeks, future doctors and violinists. Asian-American kids crave street credibility — not just academic accolades.
  8. Asian-American kids universally hate the question: Where are you from — especially since the answers are usually something like “Westchester” or “Boston.”
  9. All things Korean are hot and getting hotter. Fashion. Foods. DJs. Online communities. Korea is the new Japan.
  10. The 15 minutes of seemingly benign American Idol fame for William Hung had a surprisingly negative effect on Asian-American students. There’s a feeling that Hung perpetuated the worst stereotypes about Asian people and gave non-Asians permission to indulge in two years of racial stereotyping and mocking.

The list makes pretty good sense to me, although I was not aware of #3, the passion of Asian American youth for easy listening contemporary music. Who knew that someone like Kenny G would be able to rock the Asian American world?

February 20, 2007

Written by C.N.

NYU Students Rally Against Racist Music

I received the following item about the courageous actions of a group of NYU students opposing racism in the New York City music scene:

Greenwich Village, NYC – Last night, 20 New York University students held an educational rally to demonstrate against “Ching Chong Song,” a Brooklyn indie-folk band. (Both band members are Caucasian). The NYU students stood outside the band’s performance to pass out flyers educating attendees of the offensiveness of the phrase “ching chong.”

“Words like that contain a painful history loaded with intolerance, hatred, and belittlement,” said NYU sophomore Chi-Ser Tran, a demonstrator. When the band learned of the impending rally, it agreed to change its name and to make an apology during its performance. Band pianist and singer Dan Gower said the name wasn’t changed until now because of “all the action people have taken.”

The band formerly known as “Ching Chong Song” experienced similar protests in December at Bryn Mawr College. The protests there successfully got the band’s scheduled performance to be cancelled. Julia LaMendola, the other band member, wrote an open letter in the Bryn Mawr’s student newspaper in response: “Growing up a child of a gay parent in a tiny town, a poor second-generation Italian girl, I also have experience with the nuances of language. And give me a break you stupid twats…By the way, ‘ching chang chong’ is what people in Germany call the game rock paper scissors, and stupid petty retards is what I’m calling you.”

“While I am heartened that the band has agreed to change its name, I hope that we focus on the issue at hand: racism,” said NYU junior Frederick Loo Wong, a lead demonstrator. “We cannot hold pejorative epithets to differing standards. I am offended when someone uses the word ‘gay’ inappropriately. It is breath-taking when someone uses the ‘n-word.’ Why can’t the same apply to ‘ching chong’?”

NYU senior Lily Yuan expressed concern about the sincerity of the band’s apology. “But, even though the band changed their name, they announced it with sarcasm and pride and few words that meant nothing and left us standing in humiliation and shock.” Yuan was brought to tears during the band public apology when band member LaMendola said, “The college banned me from performing and then I wrote them a letter calling them retarded twats [the audience laughed]…Yea I thought it was pretty funny too…”

“However we may feel about the band’s apology, what we have done here tonight is show New York City that Asians are not to be belittled. We can organize and will not tolerate insults. But first, we need to all understand each other for a better society,” said Wong.

The band has agreed to change its name; however, it has yet to reflect those changes on its website. Also lacking is an apology on the website. The band’s website is: An article in NYU’s campus paper may be found here.

Lily Yuan and Tiffany Yu (not mentioned in article) are Senior Advisors for the NYU student group Asian Heritage Month. Frederick Loo Wong is a member of the group and a leader in the organization of the rally. The group plans to hold programs and workshops on stopping hate for all identity groups on campus. For more information or pictures you can contact them below.

Lily Yuan
Senior Advisor
Asian Heritage Month
New York University

Tiffany Yu
Senior Advisor
Asian Heritage Month
New York University

Frederick Loo Wong
Member and rally leader

Kudos to Lily, Tiffany, Frederick, and all those who helped in the protest. It certainly can be hard to stand up to every single incident of ignorance and outright racism that we as Asian Americans encounter on a daily basis, so whenever members of our community step up and proclaim that enough is enough, we owe them our gratitude and appreciation.

Keep up the good work and the good fight, everyone.

February 18, 2007

Written by C.N.

Happy Year of the Pig!

Today is Sunday, February 18, 2007 — Lunar New Year (as known to many as Chinese New Year), the Year of the Pig. In my article about Tet, a Celebration of Rebirth, I describe how Lunar New Year is celebrated among the Vietnamese. But for a more detailed description of how the Year of the Pig is likely to play out on an international scale, the Associated Press/ reports that unfortunately, it’s not likely to be a banner year for most people:

Sunday marks the start of the Chinese New Year and it’s a lucky one for those starting out in life. But the rest of us are in for a rough ride. Expect epidemics, disasters and violence in much of the world. “The Year of the Pig will not be very peaceful,” said Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo. . . . Pig years can be turbulent because they are dominated by fire and water, conflicting elements that tend to cause havoc, Lo said.

“Fire sitting on water is a symbol of conflict and skirmish,” he said. “We’ll also see more fire disasters and bombings.” . . . It’s an occasion to have family feasts, buy new clothes and exchange red envelopes stuffed with gift money. Not everything about the future looks bleak. Most soothsayers said the world economy will continue to boom, though they advise people to be cautious about their investments. . . . Ronald Reagan was a pig. So are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Woody Allen and Elton John. Not to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So it appears that on a worldwide scale, while financial matters seem relatively secure, people may need to be especially diligent in preparing for health epidemics, natural disasters, and violence. While that may or may not be true, I hope everyone has a happy and prosperous new Lunar Year!

February 15, 2007

Written by C.N.

Controversy Over Childrens Book

As I’ve written about before, for centuries now, there has been tension and even hostility between Japan and Korea over Japan’s history of colonial rule over the Korean peninsula and in particular, its actions against Koreans during World War II. Sixty years later, as the Boston Globe reports, these same tensions are now being played out in a controversy regarding a children’s book:

The South Korean Consulate has asked the state Department of Education to rethink its use of “So Far From the Bamboo Grove,” an award-winning memoir of an 11-year-old Japanese girl fleeing Japanese-occupied Korea with her family at the end of World War II. The book is part of the curriculum in a number of Massachusetts middle schools but became a source of controversy last fall when a group of Dover-Sherborn parents, including Korean-Americans, objected to it, calling it propaganda that glosses over brutality inflicted on Koreans by their Japanese occupiers. . . .

The South Korean consulate, based in Newton, further complained that the book depicts Koreans as “evil predators” and asked the state to “seriously reevaluate the appropriateness of this book for reading at the middle school level.” The consulate wrote the state on Jan. 16, but the letter is surfacing just as the book’s author, Cape Cod resident Yoko Kawashima Watkins, prepares for a press conference tomorrow to defend herself against the complaints about her book. Watkins has said that she didn’t intend to avoid the history of Japanese-Korean relations but was trying to focus on her story of survival.

I have not read the book in question, so obviously I cannot definitively comment on its contents. However, I have two initial observations. The first is, with most children’s books, it is generally not very realistic to expect authors to provide a comprehensive overview of the historical context in which their story is told. By definition, children’s books can only do so much and only provide one of many narratives that can be applied toward any situation or event.

Having said that however, if in fact the book portrays Koreans as “evil predators,” then we have a problem here. It would be one thing to portray the Japanese military as predatory because as history shows, that is largely true. However, history also shows that in almost all cases, Koreans in fact were the victims of Japanese aggression and brutality, not the other way around.

Upon further research, New American Media has a very enlightening article that describes in more detail some of the book’s depictions of Koreans:

In the novel, Watkins writes about Japanese women who were raped by Koreans and other atrocities following the surrender of Japan to Allied forces. Koreans in the United States and in Korea have challenged the authenticity of these and other accounts in the novel, however, arguing that the rape of Japanese women by Koreans could never have occurred as the Japanese military presence remained throughout the country until well after American and Russian forces arrived in the area.

They also contend that Watkins’ accounts of U.S.-led bombing in Korea never occurred during the period covered in the novel, and, for example, her descriptions of removing the uniform of a dead Communist soldier are false since the Communist army did not exist until 1948, years after the events in Watkins’ tale.

Admirers of the novel include Linda Sue Park, a Korean American and author of “When My Name Was Keoko,” an account of her family’s experiences living under Japanese colonial rule in Korea. Watkins’s supporters say her tale speaks from an anti-war perspective, and that it is not presented in class as a historical work but as historical fiction.

So from what it sounds like and from what critics charge, the author has taken liberties with historical accuracy and in doing so, has disproportionately portrayed Koreans in a much more negative light than the Japanese. If that is the case, ultimately I have to side with the critics on this one.

Freedom of expression certainly gives authors like Kawashima Watkins the license to write fictionalized accounts of history. However, when such fictionalized accounts are so distorted that they are seen as biased, prejudicial, and ethnocentric, then the same freedom of expression she enjoys should be used by critics to denounce her work as such.

Finally, as the New American Media article also points out, let this whole episode be a lesson to all those who foolishly assume that any work by an Asian American author is good and is likely to receive praise from all Asian Americans. As you can plainly see, ethnic differences do exist and do produce tensions between different Asian groups.

February 13, 2007

Written by C.N.

Vietnamese American Exhibit at Smithsonian

Is it a sign that the Vietnamese American community is increasingly entering mainstream American society, or that it remains an unusual curiosity? You can judge for yourself — a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum entitled “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” captures the multifaceted immigration and resettlement experiences of Vietnamese Americans around the country:

It is the first exhibit at the museum and in the nation to highlight the journey of Vietnamese who fled to the U.S. after communists took control of the country. In March, it will leave the S. Dillon Ripley Gallery and head out on a three-year tour across the United States. . . . A sense of this Vietnamese-American community is laid out on the walls of the quiet gallery that is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

There are photos of immigrants being loaded onto helicopters – eyes filled with fear and uncertainty. In grainy film footage, emaciated immigrants wave for help from ships in rough seas – adrift and seeking a home. Next to images of struggle are pictures of happier times in a new land. They show immigrants in well-known American settings: boys in Cub Scout uniforms, families marching in Fourth of July parades and a man in a cowboy hat waving an American flag.

It also highlights the sense of tension that can exist as younger generations are raised in a culture distinctly different from that of those who came before them. The exhibit showcases barriers such as language and the outside influences of a foreign culture.

Kudos to Prof. Vu Pham, professor and research fellow at UC Irvine, for curating the piece, and to all those who helped to support and sponsor its creation. However the exhibit is framed, I think it’s great that people now have the opportunity to learn more about our community, history, and experiences, which is always a positive step for Vietnamese Americans and American society in general.

February 11, 2007

Written by C.N.

Japan Reconsidering Corporal Punishment

Similar to the U.S., Japan has apparently been experiencing a rise in bullying by schoolchildren against each other. As BBC News reports, many feel that the way to cut down on such bullying incidents is to reinstate corporal punishment:

Japanese schools should rethink their decades-old ban on corporal punishment, a government-appointed panel has urged. The report, submitted amid growing concern over bullying, stopped short of overtly backing beating, but suggested an end to a policy of leniency. Bullying was found to be involved in 14 of 40 youth suicides from 1999 to 2005 in a country where pupils are also under great pressure to perform well. . . .

Alarmed by the trend of bullying deaths, the panel, chaired by the Nobel laureate Ryoji Noyori, urged schools last November to punish classroom bullies and crack down on teachers who ignored the problem. . . . Japan’s education minister had previously denied bullying was a factor in the youth suicide rate.

As an educator and parent of an elementary school student myself, I consider bullying to be a very real problem whose consequences Americans are only beginning to understand. To me, education is not just about learning to read, write, and do math — it’s also about the larger social environment that can either encourage and facilitate a love of learning, or lead to alienation and despair. Clearly, a large part of that social environment is a student’s peers and how they treat each other.

Back to Japan’s proposals, I’m not sure if direct physical punishment is the most constructive way to address the bullying problem (it may teach offending children to just use violence to solve their problems), but I do agree that schools and teachers need to do a better job at cracking down on bullies, and to be held accountable if they fail to do so.

I also think some forms of corporal punishment, outside of beating a student, may be appropriate if they send the message that certain behavior will not be tolerated and that there will be real consequences for such behavior. Schools and teachers need to know where encouragement and understanding end, and coddling destructive behavior begins.

February 8, 2007

Written by C.N.

Shocking Hiroshina & Nagasaki Pictures

These days, television has the ability to give us detailed images of what war is like. But what about images of what devastation caused by an atomic bomb looks like? After the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed on August 6 and August 9, 1945 respectively, and after some 250,000 people had died in their immediate aftermath, the U.S. government imposed strict restrictions on any photos that had the potential to “disturb public tranquility.”

However, a few photographs that portray the true devastation of what happened eventually surfaced and this blog has gathered them together in one collection of images. Although many of the pictures are very hard to look at (the picture above is one of the milder examples), I hope you’ll take a moment to have a look for yourself — it puts life in a much more clear perspective.

February 6, 2007

Written by C.N.

Viet Nam’s Leaders Disucss Change

Now that Viet Nam has officially been admitted to the World Trade Organization, how will this change the country, if at all? As BBC News reports, this question was the heart of recent meetings of Viet Nam’s central government:

Vietnam’s Communist Party is now facing up to the political consequences of its decision to integrate the country with global capitalism. Vietnam formally joined the World Trade Organization this month, and now it has to change many of its laws and practices to comply with WTO rules. In many areas the old ways of doing business and politics no longer work.

The economy is more complex, growth is creating winners and losers, and the country needs more sophisticated policies to address the problems. In response, the party is trying to give more power to the formal structures of the government and the National Assembly. In the past these bodies were mainly rubber stamps for decisions taken by the party, but they are starting to assume greater control of the setting and implementation of policy.

These are tough questions indeed. How will Viet Nam manage opening up their country and economy while at the same time retaining their tight grip on power and control? However the process, as I’ve said in the past, I think it is a positive step to continue integrating Viet Nam into the international community, rather than trying to isolate them as many rabid anti-communist Vietnamese Americans have vehemently argued for.

Viet Nam’s government is not going to be overthrown by a revolution anytime soon. But given enough time and capitalist pressures, its society is likely to become more open, slowly but surely.