Representatives from 91 nations attend ceremony on 71st anniversary of atomic bombing of Hiroshima

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Japan Times:

Hiroshima on Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on world leaders to do more to abolish nuclear weapons and to follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the city in May with trips of their own.

At a memorial ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe echoed Matsui’s call and also urged young people to visit to observe the harrowing reality of the atomic bombing. Abe also reiterated Japan’s role in combating nuclear proliferation as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.

In the Peace Declaration read at the city’s annual memorial ceremony, Matsui urged the leaders of all nations to visit Hiroshima, which was devastated by an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, which was obliterated by another atomic strike three days later by the United States, in order to “etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each (leader’s) heart.

Matsui then called on the world to “unify and manifest our passion in action” to proceed toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

 

A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima at an altitude of about 600 meters, killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 that year, and Japan surrendered six days later, effectively ending the war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the importance of maintaining and enhancing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that binds its signatories not to pursue atomic weapons programs.

Abe also said he will maintain his efforts to create a world free of nuclear weapons by asking both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states for cooperation, and by showing world leaders and young people the painful reality of radiation exposure.

During the ceremony, a message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also read out by a representative.

Today, the world needs the hibakusha spirit more than ever,” at a time when “global tensions are rising” and progress on nuclear disarmament is “hard to find,” the message said, adding that nuclear powers “have special responsibility to prevent another Hiroshima,”

Ban urged all nations to “find common ground through inclusive dialogue.”

The ceremony was attended by representatives from 91 nations, including recognized nuclear weapons states such as Britain, France, the United States and Russia. The European Union was also represented.

The number of hibakusha stood at 174,080 as of March, and their average age was just over 80 years old.

Salvadoran-Filipino student scores perfectly on AP Calculus exam

NBC News: 

The son of a Salvadoran maintenance worker and a Filipina nurse got a perfect score on his Advanced Placement Calculus exam, one of only 12 (out of 302,531!) in the entire world to do so.

Cedrick Argueta, a 17-year-old senior who described himself as a quiet and humble guy, has become a celebrity at Abraham Lincoln High School, a school of a little over 1,000 students in the Latino neighborhood Lincoln Heights in Los Angeles, CA.

It just sort of blew up,” Argueta told the Los Angeles Times, “It feels kind of good to be in the spotlight for a little bit, but I want to give credit to everybody else that helped me along the way.” He took time to thank his teacher, friends and family for the great accomplishment.

“I have to put in a lot hard work and, as true for anything, if you want to get good at something, hard work is the key,” he added.

Argueta is the son of Lilian and Marcos Argueta, both of whom are immigrants. His mom who is from the Philippines is a licensed vocational nurse who works two jobs at nursing homes. His dad, who never went to high school, is from El Salvador and is a maintenance worker at one of those nursing homes his wife works in.

So, what is next for Argueta? Once he graduates in June, he hopes to attend Caltech and become an engineer who will one day have his name on something that is known around the world.

VICE: The Strange Tale of ‘Shrimp Boy,’ the Old-School Chinatown Gangster Being Sent Back to Prison

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Kwok Cheung Chow, a.k.a. Raymond Chow, a.k.a Shrimp Boy, at the Ghee Kung Tong headquarters in San Francisco in 2007.

VICE (by Max Cherney):

Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was convicted by a San Francisco jury Friday on 162 separate charges. Prosecutors painted a picture of him as a dangerous thug who ran a well-oiled crime machine dealing in drugs, illegal booze, and cigarettes—a heartless operator willing to murder in cold blood when necessary. As a result, Chow is likely facing life in prison, though he plans to appeal.

The conviction brought to an end nearly two years of legal wrangling and drama that was extensively followed by the local media. At one point, Chow’s lawyers made headlines by trumpeting court documents they said implicated local government officials in unethical behavior at best and criminal corruption at worst—though none have been formally charged.

Twenty-nine men and women, including Chow, were named in the initial charging documents—a lurid 137-page affidavit that included the now-convicted former State Senator Leland Yee‘s apparent aspirations as an international arms trafficker. The now-disgraced Yee pleaded guilty in 2015 to a single racketeering count centered around his alleged arms business and propensity for taking bribes from government agents. (He’s awaiting sentencing.)

I was closer than most to the case, covering it for a local magazine, a blog, and a weekly newspaper. I first met Chow at the San Francisco county jail, a soul-sucking compound in the belly of the city’s “tech district,” South of Market. The metal stools, thick glass windows, and ongoing clang of gates smashing shut made for onerous circumstances, but Raymond and I continued a dialogue throughout his trial. I always found him irreverent and upbeat—Chow’s longtime girlfriend told me after the verdict that he’s “insanely strong” and “very Buddha-like.”

He was willing to candidly discuss the government’s accusations, proclaiming his innocence and describing Ghee Kung Tong, the local organization the feds say was involved in all sorts of illegal activity, as a “private self-help group.” (Tongs are fraternal organizations for Chinese-Americans and are sometimes accused of being fronts for crime.)

It’s a weird way to get to know another human being, through glass and over a telephone, via conversations the government is likely recording and will almost certainly use against the prisoner if possible. “I don’t want to make friends like this,” Chow told me during one visit. He later offered to cook us dinner when he got out.

I have never shaken Shrimp Boy’s hand, but know more about his life than many of the people I talk with regularly on my current business reporting beat. That might have something to do with the way Chow throws out details of his life in a manner that seems almost reckless: During the trial, he admitted to doing blow, “cut[ting] someone up” at the age of nine (he details the experience in an unpublished memoir he shared with me), buying sex after getting out of prison, and even taking money from undercover FBI agents—though he maintained that he wasn’t taking the dough in return for overseeing criminal behavior of his alleged associates.

Chow has undeniable charisma. He’s big-mouthed and big-hearted and always (if you believe him) looking out for the immigrant community he’s a part of. According to those close to him, the man is broke enough that he had to live with relatives and his girlfriend upon getting out of prison in 2002, his most recent stretch in the federal pen. (Somehow, though, Chow always seemed to wear tailored, two-piece suits on the outside.) If he does have millions of dollars, even his lawyers have no idea where all the cash is—they took on this marquee client pro bono.

Chow is represented by the office of famous defense attorney J. Tony Serra, which is how I started covering him in March 2014. I was lucky: Curtis Briggs, an associate of Serra’s I had previously worked with, was angling to bring Chow on as a client. The man trusted me, and invited me over to listen to the call as he pitched Chow from their offices in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood—a building that reeked of weed. (“We do things differently,” one of Serra’s staffers told me.)

Tony Serra, right, an attorney for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, pictured at left, listens to speakers at a news conference in San Francisco, Thursday, April 10, 2014. 

I watched and listened as Briggs, a tall, handsome ginger in a suit, reeled in Shrimp Boy. The lawyer worked with a frenetic intensity and passion, and as we waited for the call, Briggs and former-gangster-turned-community-leader Eli Crawford offered their take on the local character.

To hear Chow’s defenders and friends tell it, he’s a community worker of sorts—Crawford described how he and Chow had been giving talks to the city’s troubled youth. In Chow’s memoir, he writes about speaking to high schools, middle schools, and at-risk youth—all to stop kids from following in his footsteps. He also writes that he partnered with a local politician and organized a series of talks about Chinese culture and heritage, for which the city presented him with an award honoring his contribution.

Of course, Chow also has a history of criminal activities including armed robbery, arson, and assault. In his early days, he was a gang enforcer and describes in the book the surgical precision he deployed when hurting enemies. “Beating someone down for a living is a science, ain’t nothing random about it,” Chow writes. “You appraise the target for strengths and weaknesses…. Inflicting injury is a delicate balance, like a recipe you season to taste. You have to be able to evaluate the level of damage you’re doing while you work, and you can get pretty damned good at figuring in the cost of an injury right there, heat of the moment. Most importantly though, you have to know when to stop.”

Later, Chow claims in the unpublished book, he founded a band of home invaders that robbed people all over the Bay Area. He also claimed to have run a brothel and siphoned $250,000 in profits from that operation into a growing coke distribution business back in the 1980s.

But according to Chow and his supporters, that criminal life ended in the 1990s. Indicted on racketeering charges in 1992 and convicted in 1996, Chow was part of a massive case that sent an atomic shockwave through the West Coast crime world. The feds disrupted what might have eventually become the largest heroin trafficking ring in America: The crooks’ plan was to unify disparate gangs and start shipping in smack from the Golden Triangle in huge quantities.

Chow was released from prison in 2003 after cutting a deal with the feds and testifying against his former boss and mentor Peter Chong. (Chow claims in the memoir he had no choice because Chong betrayed him by paying for Chow’s lawyer to take a lavish trip to Macao, sending her off with $60,000 worth of designer handbags—and an agreement to drop Shrimp Boy as a client.)

At the time, Chow recalls in his memoir, the decision to testify against Chong challenged his view of the world. “Some 30 years before, as a child, I’d set out to become a gangster,” he writes. “I sacrificed 20 of those years—the prime of my youth—locked up, a key player in a world that completely vanished beneath my feet. All the gang leaders, dope pushers, scandalous ex-cons and tough guys I’d known were long forgotten and out of the game. Everybody I’d come up with in Chinatown had flipped or cooperated somehow. Once upon a time, they all believed in our code and lived by it. Now every last one had shattered it.”

Those claims may have contributed to Serra taking on Chow as a client, since the attorney doesn’t usually represent people who might be called snitches. “I represent a beautiful man who 12 years ago transcended a lifestyle most people never have the courage to walk away from,” the defense attorney told me when I was writing for San Francisco. He experienced a true epiphany after prison and became a role model for many unfortunates. He has devoted his life since then to bona fide social causes.

As a free man, Chow rubbed shoulders with celebrities, talking loudly and publicly of making a film about his life story. In 2006, after a community leader named Allen Leung was gunned down, Chow took over his post as top boss, or Dragon Head, of the Ghee Kung Tong. (Chow was convicted for arranging Leung’s murder on Friday.)

Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow with a man his girlfriend says was a federal undercover in 2011.

Federal prosecutors vigorously argued during the trial that Chow’s work in his community was nothing more than a disguise, offering him cover to oversee a group of old-school Chinatown thugs and their illicit money-making schemes. The gang allegedly trafficked drugs and untaxed hooch and smokes, plotted murders, laundered money.

For their part, Chow and his lawyers maintain the case is bigger than the one-time crook—and insist the investigation shed light on how power in San Francisco really works. They say Judge Charles Breyer was prejudiced against the defense from the start, chopping down their witness list from 48 to less than ten and refusing to consider evidence that implicated city officials. Briggs called Breyer an “attack dog whose sole job was to guard the elite’s secrets and to usher Chow as quickly as possible to life in prison.”

It took a lot of balls to do this with America watching, but that is an indication of just how comfortable the people he is protecting really are, and it illustrates their time tested trust in him,” Briggs added.

Both Serra and Briggs have vowed to appeal, and Briggs argues they have a good shot, though Friday’s verdict was obviously a resounding win for the prosecutors—a victory observers were pretty much anticipating. As Stanford Law Professor Robert Weisberg told the San Francisco Chronicle, “If you have tapes that are perfectly consistent with informant testimony, then juries convict a great deal of the time.” He added that he expects the verdict to be upheld.

Whatever happens with the appeals, Chow is going to spend years behind bars, an environment he knows well by now. And the networks of local political power and crime he spent much of his life in will hum along without him. Shrimp Boy supposedly got his nickname from his grandmother in Hong Kong, who apparently believed that a pseudonym would protect the short kid from evil spirits.

Indian-American aid worker Anita Datar is the only known American killed in Mali

Washington Post (by Donna St. George, Joe Heim and Matt Zapotosky):

The death of Anita Datar, the only American known to be killed in the siege on a hotel in Mali, touched off a wave of mourning Saturday that reached from colleagues in Washington and neighbors in Maryland to the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Datar, 41, was remembered for her passionate commitment to her work in international development, her love for her young son and her gift for laughter. She was in Mali with two co-workers — both of whom survived Friday’s attack — working on a health policy project for Palladium, a global development company with offices in Washington.

The U.S. ambassador to Mali called Datar’s family late Friday afternoon to inform them of her death, Datar’s mother, Sunanda Datar, said in a phone call.

“We are devastated that Anita is gone — it’s unbelievable to us that she has been killed in this senseless act of violence and terrorism,” her brother Sanjeev Datar said in a statement. “Anita was one of the kindest and most generous people we know. She loved her family and her work tremendously. Everything she did in her life she did to help others — as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend. And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and health care to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance.”

The divorced mother of a second-grader, Datar was Palladium’s senior director for field programs for Health Policy Plus, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project aimed at improving reproductive health in developing countries. Datar had devoted much of the past 10 years of her career pursuing global public health, particularly family planning and HIV, according to Palladium and her LinkedIn profile.

Edward Abel, president of Palladium’s U.S. business unit, said he did not have details about what unfolded inside the hotel or how Datar was killed while her colleagues escaped harm. “From what I understand, they were on the lower floors of the hotel, and Anita was not,” he said.

Abel said Datar had worked at the company for 11 years and described her as “brilliant” and “a wonderful colleague and friend.” He said she was “a true inspiration” to younger associates. “Her work had real impact and touched many people’s lives in the countries in which she worked,” he said.

Those who knew her say Datar’s foremost passion was her 7-year-old son, Rohan, a student at Takoma Park Elementary School. His photos are prominent on her Facebook page, where he is shown smiling on his bike, dressing up for Halloween and mugging for the camera with his arm around his mom.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton joined in the sorrow Saturday, issuing a statement mourning Datar’s death and praising the work she did. Datar’s ex-husband, David Garten, was one of Clinton’s policy advisers when she served in the Senate.

“Anita Datar was a bright light who gave help and hope to people in need around the world, especially women and families . . . she represented the best of America’s generous spirit,” Clinton said.

“My prayers are with the Datar and Garten families, especially Anita and David’s son,” Clinton said. “My heart breaks thinking of the burden he will now bear on his small shoulders and the courage he will have to show in the days ahead.”

Panda Talk: Chinese scientists discover how pandas flirt with each other

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Next Shark:

Chinese scientists say they have decoded 13 different giant panda vocalizations.

Researchers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in the southwestern Sichuan Province made their findings during a five-year study that involved spectrum analysis done on recordings of the endangered species, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Among their findings were that adult male pandas baa when they are trying to woo females into mating and that adult female pandas chirp when they are interested.

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Trust me. Our researchers were so confused when we began the project that they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep,” said Zhang Hemin, head of the center.

The sounds made by panda cubs were also deciphered: “gee-gee” means hunger, “coo-coo” expresses satisfaction, and “wow-wow” means displeasure.

According to the researchers, pandas are solitary and thus learn much of their language from their mothers.

If a panda mother keeps tweeting like a bird, she may be anxious about her babies. She barks loudly when a stranger comes near,” Zhang said.

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Researchers at the center, which has the world’s largest panda artificial breeding program, also hope to develop a “panda translator” that uses voice-recognition technology.

If we can understand their language, it will help us protect the animal, especially in the wild,” the researcher said.

There are currently less than 2,000 giant pandas living in the wild today, all of them in China. More than 300 are in captivity, with a majority of those kept at the center.

Singapore Airlines to resume world’s longest flights, 9500-miles nonstop from Singapore to New York

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The Points Guy:

This morning, Singapore Airlines announced plans to re-launch the world’s longest flight, traveling nonstop from New York to Singapore. The airline will operate its flagship route with the Airbus A350-900ULR, which will have a range of just over 10,000 miles — more than enough to handle the 9,500-mile flight from New York and 8,700-mile flight from LA.

The NYC flight is nearly 1,000 miles longer than Emirates’ nonstop from Dubai to Panama, and used to be operated by the now-retired Airbus A340-500. Now, at just shy of 10,000 miles from New York to Sydney, an airline like Qantas could theoretically one-up Singapore with its own 20-hour nonstop, though that isn’t terribly likely.

Singapore has 63 A350-900s on order, including seven of this new ULR (ultra-long-range) variant, which will be used for the NY and Los Angeles nonstops. The airline has confirmed that the A350 will offer its upgraded seats, though we still don’t know what those will look like. It’s also unclear whether the plane will be operated in an all-business configuration, or with multiple classes of service.

The A350-900ULR is expected to be delivered in 2018.

Chinese woman buries entire life savings only to discover it decomposed underground

Next Shark (by Riley Schatzle):

An elderly Chinese woman from Muyang County wanted to protect her money several years ago so she buried 100,000 yuan ($15,600) underneath her kitchen. When she dug it up recently to pay for her son’s wedding, she was distraught to find out that her entire life’s savings had decomposed, reports South China Morning News.

The woman’s son claimed she sealed the money in plastic wrap and buried it in a metal box, but her measures were not enough as all of the banknotes were completely destroyed. He said:

“This is almost all of my parents’ life savings. They can’t accept what’s happened. So I want to go to banks and see if they have any solution.”

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Although her predicament is unfortunate, most know that there is very little she can do about the ruined banknotes. An expert from The People’s Bank of China told the woman’s son that although there was nothing his bank could do, he was willing to contact other banks to see if they could offer any possible solutions.
The practice of hiding money inside the home to avoid theft was commonplace in China before the rise of the banking industry in the country. Many Chinese citizens, lacking trust in the banking system, still store their money inside their homes today.

Earlier this year, a woman from Shaoshan, Hunan province of China, accidentally lit her and her husband’s stash of 100,000 yuan ($16,100) on fire while it was being stored in the oven.