New school in Iraq to provide a Japanese-style education

RocketNews 24:

Impressed with Japan’s ability to quickly rebuild after the Second World War, some educators in Iraq are looking to instill similar values in their own youth.

As Iraq remains mired in fighting with extremist groups, government funds for essential services such as education are strained to the breaking point. In this grim situation, the new Japanese-style school in Baghdad is hopefully seen as a breath of fresh air.

It was the idea of an Iraqi expert in Japanese political history who followed the country’s rise from a devastated scorched land to economic powerhouse in only a few decades and hopes his country can follow the same path when the fighting finally stops.

At an opening ceremony held by the Japanese embassy on 26 December, the founding professor said: “By inheriting the spirit of harmony of Japanese society, I want to bring up the next generation to embrace the importance of teamwork.”

The school will closely follow both the extra-curricular activities found in Japanese schools such as having the students do all of the cleaning themselves and a general emphasis on the importance of discipline in life. The Japanese language will also be among the lessons offered.

One of the 230 children enrolled told media: “I like that it’s possible to a lot of different things like Japanese.”

57-year-old Chinese man has been cycling around the world for 18 years

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Shanghaiist: (By Lucy Liu)

A series of pictures showing a 57-year-old Chinese man being escorted by Iraqi police while cycling in Iraq‘s Basra on February 21 with very few personal belongings has gained a great deal of attention online.

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It’s reported that Li Zhang left his hometown for his cycling world tour in 1997 to explore different cultures and meet new people across the globe. He’s been cycling from country to country for the past 18 years

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Islamic State, in video, threatens to kill 2 Japanese hostages

A photo from a video clip posted on YouTube shows a man with a knife threatening two captives identified as Haruna Yukawa (right) and Kenji Goto Jogo. The Islamic State says it wants $200 million for their release.

NPR:

The group that calls itself the Islamic State, in a direct address to Japan‘s prime minister, is threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless it gets $200 million within 72 hours. The demand in a video posted online comes as Shinzo Abe is visiting the Middle East.

The video shows the two men — purported to be Haruna Yukawa, who was captured in August, and freelance journalist Kenji Goto Jogo, who was last heard from on Twitter in October when he said he was in Syria — in orange jumpsuits. There is a rocky hill in the background and a masked militant, clad in black, standing between them.

To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” the militant says. “You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims … and in an attempt to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, you have also donated another $100 million to train the (apostates).”

That sum is equivalent to the amount Japan pledged in nonmilitary aid to countries in the region facing threats from the Islamic State.

The militant who is brandishing a knife in the video resembles and sounds like the British man in other Islamic State videos in which hostages have been beheaded. Three Americans — James Foley, Peter Kassig and Steven Sotloff — and two Britons — David Haines and Alan Henning — were killed by the group in the past year. Their beheadings have been filmed.

It’s unclear whether Japan will pay the $200 million to free the hostages, but its Foreign Ministry in a statement said, “Japan will not give in to terrorism.”

Abe, in Jerusalem, said the lives of the two hostages “are the top priority.”

He said he was sending Yasuhide Nakayama, state minister for foreign affairs, to Jordan to deal with the situation, Japanese media reported.

It is unforgivable,” said Abe, who is on a six-day tour of the Middle East. “Extremism and Islam are completely different things.”

The Islamic State also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in the group’s propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American aid worker.

The Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria. But in recent days, the group has suffered setbacks from airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies.