The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, every member state of the UN has an obligation to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides. This year’s theme is Rescue during the Holocaust: The Courage to Care.
Coincidentally, my friend Scott Allison has an excellent profile of Chiune Sugihara up on his blog this week; it’s well worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the section that’s particularly relevant today:
In 1939 Chiune was then sent to the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania. On September 1st of that year Nazi Germany invaded Poland and the persecution of Jews began almost immediately.
By 1940 Jewish refugees from Poland and from within Lithuania itself began to seek ways to flee the country. This required visas and many countries were refusing to issue them. Japan itself had stringent requirements that the refugees did not meet. Chiune inquired to his superiors three times requesting instructions, but in all cases requests to issue the visas were declined.
It might have been easier to simply walk away and do nothing but instead, in July of 1940, against orders, Sugihara started issuing visas and even directly negotiated with officials of the Soviet Union to allow the refugees to pass through Russia on their way to Japan. He continued to write visas, reportedly spending 18-20 hours a day until September 4th when the Consulate was closed. During the night prior to the closing, Chiune and his wife Yukiko spent the entire night writing visas, and Chiune was reportedly even preparing them en route to the train station where he threw them out the window of the train to waiting refugees as it left the station. In a final act of desperation he resorted to throwing blank pages with the Consulate seal and his signature, which could be filled out later.
The exact number of Jews saved by Chiune Sugihara is not known but estimates put the number around 6,000.
It’s important to spend time thinking about people like Sugihara, who defied specific orders in order to assist those in need, and so it’s a very good thing that this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is dedicated to them. Reflecting on the actions of those who acted on behalf of others, unlike most people around them, should encourage us to do the same in our daily lives, even if only in some small way.
When Japan defeated the U.S. in Germany last year at the Women’s World Cup, one of the worst tweets I remember reading was to the effect of “Japan may have won the World Cup, but the U.S. scored the first two points with Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” referring to the two atomic bombings during World War II. Well, this year’s tweets did not fail to live up.
When are these Olympics over? It’s soon, right?
I haven’t watched a minute of the coverage, admittedly, but I’m sure tired of the jingoism.
HT: Matt Langdon.
In case you haven’t been following the stories of flooding in the Midwest too closely, here’s a photo of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant.
“It is not another Fukushima. The difference is the rapid flooding that occurred at Fukushima. This was a predicted event, to a degree, from the Corps of Engineers. The floodwaters at Fort Calhoun are outside the plant. There is no water inside the plant. The reactor is covered with borated water. The spent fuel is covered with borated water, which we want it to be. That’s intentional. That’s where it should be. The floodwaters are outside Fort Calhoun, not inside,” [CEO Gary] Gates explains.
Still, there is a genuine crisis at the plant. Floodwaters from the swollen Missouri River have engulfed this facility. The parking lots are underwater. The river’s fast-paced currents are swirling against several buildings in this compound. Catwalks had to be constructed to allow workers to move from one building to the next. The buildings housing the reactor core, the spent fuel rods and other crucial components are protected by small levees and aqua-berms. But outside those barriers, the water is at least 2 feet above ground level.
Gates and his colleagues say the water has not breached the buildings housing the reactor core and the spent fuel rods, and they’re confident it won’t. Those buildings and the barriers protecting them are designed to withstand flooding extending 1,014 feet above sea level. The water is now at about 1,006 feet, and they say they do not expect it to exceed 1,008 feet.
So … Nebraska is no Japan when it comes to flooding and nuclear power. But it doesn’t sound like we should all start celebrating just yet …
This is a view of Japan’s heretofore top-secret execution chamber, where inmates are hanged.
The unprecedented media access was ordered by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who after witnessing the deaths of two condemned prisoners last month, said she wanted to have a national debate on capital punishment in Japan.
Such a national debate will be incredibly interesting to follow.
While it’s tempting to discuss how disconcerting it is that process of executing criminals is so secretive in Japan, it’s important to think carefully about how much effort is undertaken in the United States to shield the death penalty from the eyes of a public who claims to vehemently support it.
After all, the vast majority of executions in the U.S. are carried out deep in the heart of prisons that are far removed from population centers, in the wee hours of the morning, and in front of only a tiny number of witnesses.
Though no one is saying as much, it seems clear that having a better view of the process is unlikely to bolster support for it. Just ask all of the former prison wardens who have spoken out against capital punishment in recent years [See, for example, here, here and here].
The full article on Japan is here.
A more complete description of Japan’s death penalty is here.
The headline says, “Robot Snowplow from Japan Eats Up Snow, Poops Out Bricks.”
So, of course, I want one. It’s not because we have so much snow in Lincoln or because my current snowblower doesn’t do a sufficiently good job. It’s because watching this robot snowplow would generally make me at least 100% happier about winter every year.