Category

Features

Category

I am always fascinated by intriguing Japanese history like this where a secret Japanese Navy bunker in Yokohama gives a glimpse of the finals days of WWII.

Construction of the underground tunnels began in July 1944, mobilizing troops and Korean forced laborers. A room for the chief commander, Adm. Soemu Toyota, and key departments were up and running in a few months.

Only in the chief commander’s room, cement on the walls was smoothed out, the floor was covered with tatami mats and there was a door. He climbed up and down 126 stairs between the two command centers — above and below ground. His room was slightly elevated so that the floor remained dry, and there was even a flush toilet.

The tunnel command center also had ventilation ducts, a battery room, food storage with ample stock of sake, in addition to deciphering and cable and communications departments. Marks on the ceiling remain from where overhead lights hung. The tunnels housing the command center and its facilities under the campus are 30 meters underground and stretch about 2.6 km in length.

The conditions for those leading the war contrasted with those of ordinary people, who hid in small mud shelters as firebombs rained down from the sky, Akuzawa said.

Hisanao Oshima, who was there from February to May 1945 as a communications crew monitoring Morse code, still cannot forget the moments when he lost signals from kamikaze fighters. “The sound stops, and that means he crashed. I just cannot get that out of my head,” he said in an interview with NHK.

It is really neat for this to exist so close to where I live. If a chance to take a tour of these tunnels ever came up I would surely jump on it in a heartbeat.

I know there is an entire network of underground military tunnels running all over the Kanagawa-to-Tokyo area. Tunnels can be entered in Yokosuka Naval Base and drives all the way up to multiple locations in Yokohama and other Kanagawa bases as well, such as Camp Zama, Atsugi, Yokohama North Dock, and more. While I am sure they are insect and rat infested to disturbing levels, it would be a fascinating underground – literally – look at some Japanese history we rarely read or hear about.

The Next Web has posted what amounts to an advertisement masquerading as an article about how the cyber security industry is a billion dollar scam. The author claims cyber security vendors are purposely selling outdated technology it knows to be ineffective at preventing cyber attacks. First, the author sets the stage by claiming the the current model is broken (emphasis added):

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the total number of security incidents has increased 66 percent year-over-year since 2009. In 2014, there were 117,339 incoming attacks a day, an increase of 48 percent over the year before, accompanied by a rise in financial losses. Not only are these attacks more frequent and expensive, but they are also happening on a larger scale – 77 million records stolen from JPMorgan, 80 million records stolen from Anthem, Target, Home Depot, Sony, and the list goes on.

The connection between more cybercrime and more spending is clear. What is not clear is that more spending on security technology has actually done anything to curb the crime. Most of the security products out there use 20th century technology against 21st century foes, and they are obviously failing.

The author follows this by discussing how cyber security vendors are primarily selling products based on antiquated anti-virus technology rather than newer types of unproven solutions possibly more capable of preventing successful attacks (emphasis added):

Tools from mainstream security vendors are primarily based on an outdated, antivirus approach that relies on having prior knowledge of an attack. Threats are detected by comparing a program’s software to known malware in a virus dictionary. If a piece of code matches an entry in the dictionary, this raises the red flag.

Most of the security products available on the market are just a half-step better than old antivirus products. This method fails today because it only works if an attack has been seen before. Modern cybercriminals[sic] are more sophisticated than that. We are no longer looking at kids in a dorm room coming up with annoying little hacks.

While I will not disagree that there is a lot of outdated technology on the market today, that does not mean it is entirely ineffectual. The modern cyber attacker is generally backed by a well funded crime syndicate, or at worst a nation state, and are very good at what they do. Their level of sophistication requires organizations to use advanced cyber defenses to protect their crown jewels. This is well understood by every cyber security professional.

Next, the author rants about how there is this unwritten treaty – whereby treaty he means collusion – between the security vendors and the hackers, leveraging fear, uncertainty, and doubt to force organizations to spend a lot of money on useless technology (emphasis added):

The companies that make these products sell them for millions of dollars, knowing that they won’t work. Then when they fail, the vendors ask for millions more dollars to tell their clients why they failed. It is a racket. Without the “robbers,” the “cops” have no business; the more breaches occur, the more money the cybersecurity companies make.

Why hasn’t this Unholy Alliance between hackers and cybersecurity vendors received more attention? And why do organizations keep buying their products? One factor is secrecy – the security industry is not transparent in an alleged effort to protect security, and this means that these inadequate products continue to sell and continue to fail. Marketing is another factor. It’s not the best product that wins, but the best marketed product.

So now we are starting to get to the heart of the authors issue: organizations continue to spend money with the same vendors who previously sold them products that were ostensibly inadequate in preventing a breach. What the author fails to even remotely address is the complex nature of the problem, and more importantly, that buying expensive technology is not going to be one hundred percent effective in preventing every cyber attack. There will never be a time when this will be true.

Preventing successful cyber attacks requires a multi-faceted approach, combining technology, highly trained cyber security personnel, and an educated workforce, among other things. If an organization believes buying a security tool will solve all their security needs then they are sadly mistaken, and likely did not ask the right questions.

The author seems to take issue with marketing as well, and I can sympathize with this position. There are two particular security vendors – Palo Alto Network and FireEye – who spend a lot of time, money, and effort on marketing their known inferior products. There are plenty better technologies being sold today but as a result of their marketing campaigns, organizations believe they need to buy tools from these companies to stay protected.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

But here is the kicker – the part where we finally understand the context for this essentially pointless, baseless rant of an advertisement purporting to be an actual well researched, well written article (emphasis added):

In order to be effective, security software can’t rely on prior knowledge. It has to somehow figure out what is happening without looking at a list, because that list is inevitably going to be stale and incomplete. A better approach is to use Big Data and machine learning, which make it possible to identify patterns and predict discrepancies in real-time based on actual circumstances, not old or useless information.

The major security vendors are not taking this approach because it is in their best interest to keep the breaches happening. For this, they are just as culpable as the hackers themselves. In addition to developing new, better approaches for preventing attacks, startups also have an opportunity to realign the goals of the security industry to put customers’ best interest at the core.

I do not even have to address the sheer stupidity of the baseless claim that the major security vendors are not taking the approach the author outlines because there is some ostensible conspiracy to keep the industry status quo so the old guard can continue to generate revenue. Saying the vendors are the problem is to claim handgun manufacturers are at fault when an adversary shows up to a fight with a tank. The author seems to have no problem telling lies of his own so long as they suit his narrative.

Finally, the big data and machine learning comment is really the crux of this advertisement: at the bottom of the article, the author is listed as John Prisco, the CEO of Triumfant Security. Guess what types of cyber security products Triumfant makes? From their very own about page (emphasis added):

Our advanced analytics and intelligent, precision-based technology enable us to detect, analyze and immediately resolve attacks that bypass traditional, signature-based defenses.

Self-learning and continuously evolving, Triumfant’s endpoint protection technologies pick up where others leave off – effectively closing the gaps left by firewall, antivirus, sandbox technologies and Intrusion Prevention Systems. Triumfant not only captures data and detects malicious activity in real time, but it also verifies, contains, investigates, remediates and prevents future attacks.

So basically, this entire article was one big tear-down of the existing cyber security industry to make some claim that his company produces superior technology. The author basically calls into question both the ethics of those in the cyber security industry, and then claims there is a big conspiracy between the actors and vendors. His solution is for the world to stop using the technology from his competitors and to start using the very technology his company is known for creating. But because his company does not have a large marketing budget, they are losing out to the likes of PAN, FireEye, Fortinet, and other cyber security vendors who are knowingly selling ineffective tools.

Shame on The Next Web for publishing this in such a way it looks like an actual article rather than framing it for what it is: a well written advertisement purporting to be an actual well researched article on the state of overspending in the cyber security industry.

Shame on the author, CEO John Prisco of Triumfant, for his claims of collusion, and claiming the cyber security industry knowingly selling defective products, when I guarantee he knows otherwise. Rather, he uses this ruse as a red herring to better position his company’s technology.

Here’s a protip for John: if your machine learning, data analytics, and predictive analysis are that good then why dont you actually demonstrate how well these tools are at detecting and preventing cyber attacks? Do not use TNW to bash the very industry your company is apart of only to try and sell the next best security product. Let your technology speak for itself and show its effectiveness and reliability. Once you do that, then the industry will take you seriously.

I should point out that I agree – machine learning and predictive analysis is where the industry needs to go and where it is currently headed. However, no company has yet to realize the potential of these ideas and produce usable, reliable technology truly capable of meeting the marketing rhetoric. We need better AI for this to happen, and we are close, but it is still a few years out before we will really have an effective tool of this nature.

Until then, companies like Triumfant should work on improving and perfecting their imperfect technology rather than penning pointless drivel like this article. The industry respects results not rhetoric.

Disclaimer: I work for Intel Security, one of those companies John Prisco claims to be knowingly selling defective tools, and one in that conspiracy circle of hackers and cyber security vendors he accuses exists.

This is a slightly older piece of news that I recently ran across and thought was worth sharing. Popular California-based cult coffee cafe Blue Bottle Coffee is seeing so much success in Japan they are planning to open up a third cafe later this year:

Blue Bottle’s first Japan shop, which has a roaster, is in Kiyosumi, an older part of Tokyo, chosen because it reminded Freeman, the founder, of Oakland. It opened in February. The second shop, in a backstreet of Tokyo’s fashionable Omotesando, opened in March.

A third, likely opening later this year in Tokyo’s Daikanyama shopping area, will feature a menu that reflects Blue Bottle’s recent acquisition of San Francisco-based Tartine Bakery, which serves croissants, sandwiches and pastries.

I have never stepped foot near a Blue Bottle cafe but given their popularity I may have to reconsider. When I tried a few smaller niche coffee shops I was unimpressed with the coffee, finding it far too bitter for my palate. Maybe Blue Bottle will be different, though I do not want to be caught in a four-hour line just for a small cup of joe!

Eater on Cronut founder Dominique Ansel unveiling the first cronut flavor for his upcoming Tokyo bakery situated in posh and trendy Omotesando:

Soon, there will be two places in the world to buy an authentic, bona fide Cronut. As the opening date for pastry genius Dominique Ansel’s Tokyo bakery nears, Ansel is teasing out details about the menu and space on Instagram. Last night, he revealed the flavor of the first Cronut of the month: Hokkaido Milk Honey Ganache with Yuzu Lemon Cream.

The flavor actually sounds quite interesting. A yuzu lemon cream sounds simply delightful, and when coupled with a milk honey ganache sounds like it could be quite addicting. Hopefully, as previously discussed, the sugar levels will be low enough to whet the average Japanese appetite. Too sweet, and it will be eaten once and summarily discarded. Made just right, and there will be hour-long lines from now through eternity.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan have their own twitter and instagram accounts worth following if you are interesting in staying updated on the latest and greatest original cronut news for Japan.

The Japan Times on the original cronut master concocting Tokyo-only pastries for his upcoming Omotesando store:

Ansel is also promising exclusive items with a distinctly Japanese theme, but won’t disclose the details just yet.

“We are still working on a few Tokyo-only items,” he says. “It’s important to me to look into the traditions of Japanese culture, but also the techniques that are used. There are a few Japanese ingredients I am working with. I am trying to surprise people — it’s going to be a little bit of a surprise for everyone.”

Ansel also knows that what works in New York may not necessarily translate to the Japanese market, and intends to adjust his recipes accordingly.

“I have turned down the sugar level quite a bit,” he says. “I think it’s important to have a product that’s really good without having too much sugar. And something that matches Japanese culture — not too much sugar but more focused on the quality and the taste.”

It may be a smart move to tailor the cornet offerings to better match the Japanese palate. However, it is worth noting I have already had cornets in Tokyo. Every so often a pop-up Jack in the Donuts shop is resurrected in Shibuya Mark City for a couple weeks, selling their cronuts wares. They are actually very tasty, and I have been craving one lately but the pop-up shop has been MIA for months.

It is also worth mentioning, Krispy Kreme remains highly successful in Japan and it has not modified its recipe. Arguably, the cronuts could follow a similar course. But my gut instinct tells me this is a smart, long-term move, because the originals are far sweeter than their native cousins.

Just like Taco Bell in Shibuya, just like the god-knows-why popcorn shop in Harajuku, and just like when Krispy Kreme opened in Shinjuku many years ago, expect lines for cronuts to be unbelievably long. My best guess is the wait will be at least two hours to get your New York sugar fix, if not longer.

It has been a few days since the Japan Pension System data leak of 1.2 million cases of PII came to light and enough time for forensics to, at least, produce some theories about the attack source and vector. According to Kaspersky in Japan – and this is news I have yet to see on any English language web site – “Blue Termite” APT used to penetrate Japan Pension System was 100% targeted only at Japan:

Blue Termiteは100%日本を標的としたAPT攻撃であり、日本年金機構へのサイバー攻撃もその一環だとする一方で、標的は同機構だけではなく“日本全体”だと強調。たまたま情報が漏えいしたおかげで同機構では攻撃が発覚したに過ぎないとし、政府機関や報道機関をはじめ、防衛関連、エネルギー関連、航空宇宙産業、金融、化学、製造業、研究・学術機関、さらには情報通信事業者のクラウドサーバーまで、少なくとも300カ所がBlue Termiteのマルウェアに侵入されていることを明らかにした。

Blue Termiteは、「CloudyOmega(クラウディオメガ)」と呼ばれる攻撃者グループが展開している攻撃の1つ。その標的型攻撃メールとマルウェアが昨年秋、シマンテックやトレンドマイクロによって報告されていた。

 例えば、送信元が「健康保険組合運営事務局」というメールでは、Wordの文書ファイルを装った「健康保険のお知らせ」というファイルが添付されているが、実際は自己解凍型の実行ファイル(.exe)であり、これを開いてしまうと、ダミーのWord文書が表示される裏でマルウェアの本体が実行されて感染。攻撃者の指令サーバー(C&Cサーバー)との通信を開始し、情報窃取などの活動を行う。

Kaspersky Labs reports the malicious actors are targeting a variety of Japanese sectors, including government, defense industry, critical infrastructure, aerospace, financial, manufacturing, and academia. Analysis of cloud service providers reveals there may be over 300 web sites infected and distributing the malware. Additionally, according to reports by Symantec and Trend Micro, the activity has been traced to a group known as CloudyOmega and their “blue termite” attack leverages phishing, the most common and successful vector today.

As with most campaigns of this type, the emails carry a malicious payload and are written in such a convincing manner that it is very difficult for the average recipient to distinguish the authenticity. Most of the phishing emails contain a disguised Word attachment called “Notice of health insurance” that is actually a self-extracting executable (.exe), and when open will launch a window appearing to be Microsoft Word and displaying the ostensible notice. The malware then initiates a command-and-control connection in the background without the users knowledge. This is when the so-called magic happens allowing the malicious actors to siphon information out of the computer and any network connections it has established.

Kaspersky Labs states the C&C activity began around September 18, 2014. In the timeframe of October through December, there were upwards of 100 C&C connections each day until the activity subsided. Then suddenly in April 2015, a mere two months ago, C&C communication activity was resurrected, with approximately 140 cases seen per day.

Once the C&C channel is established with the victim, the actors analyze the directories and files to determine whether or not the machine has valuable data worth extracting. If not, the activity ceases. Otherwise, additional hacking tools are dropped onto the machine to aid the actors in obtaining the data. These tools assist the actors in lateral movement across the network, as well as hijacking mail account and web browser information.

It is likely this will not be the last time we hear about Blue Termite and CloudyOmega being responsible for data compromises in Japan. What I find the most interesting is how Blue Termite appears to be solely targeted at Japan, with no trace of this malware having been used in any other country. More to the point, there is not a single English language web site discussing Blue Termite, strengthening the theory this attack was aimed solely at Japan.

There are three outstanding questions at this point:

  1. Is CloudyOmega a nation state attacker, hacktivist, or group of script kiddies sitting in a basement? The sophistication of the attack points more towards nation state or, at least, a tightly-knit group of very capable actors. From the motive perspective, nation state is the most plausible.
  2. If CloudyOmega is nation state, which nation – China, North Korea, Russia, or someone else? The type of data stolen is seemingly only beneficial to a nation state attacker because there is no obvious valuable way to monetize the compromised Japan Pension System PII.
  3. Lastly, the timing of the JPS and OPM attacks are highly curious. Is there any relationship between the two?

There will likely be a lot more questions arising in the coming days than answers. I will add additional reporting as more information becomes available.

Disclosure: I work for Intel Security, a Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Symantec competitor.

Julian Sanchez has the most insightful analysis of the largely symbolic expiration of the Patriot Act section 215 authorities and what America should expect for the future of mass surveillance by way of the USA Freedom Act:

From an operational and policy perspective, the sunset really doesn’t matter.  The bulk telephony metadata program will end, but they started winding that down a week ago, and will also have to end it under the USA Freedom Act.  For all other purposes, grandfather clauses will allow the government to keep using the expired authorities for all their existing investigations, and even without that, as I observed at Vice‘s Motherboard last week, they’ve got plenty of overlapping authorities that would allow them to obtain most of the same information.  The real significance of the sunset is symbolic and political: Mitch McConnell clearly believed the same script he’s been reading from for the past decade would still work, that he could fill the Senate schedule with trade promotion authority and oil pipelines until the eve of the sunset, then use the “crisis” he’d manufactured to strongarm senators into foregoing substantive debate on reform and voting for reauthorization without any changes, lest our spies “go dark” and the  terrorist boogeyman du jour lay waste to the homeland.  But it turns out Americans aren’t quite so scared of the dark anymore.  The Patriot Act hasn’t expired—three provisions have lapsed quite temporarily—but the scaremongering strategy that birthed it is now, happily, well past its sell-by date and starting to emit a noxious odor. That will be important as we head to 2017 and the debate over reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act.

It now seems plain the USA Freedom Act will pass: the Senate voted to move forward on the bill by a vote of 77–17, opposed only by the strange bedfellows coalition of Rand Paul and 16 of the Senate’s most hardcore NSA cheerleaders.  McConnell has proposed an array of amendments weakening or diluting it, though perhaps less because he think they’ll pass than because doing so “fills the tree” for amendments and prevents folks like Ron Wyden or Rand Paul from offering amendments that would strengthen the bill.  Among these are a data retention “notice” mandate (which would compel phone companies to notify the government in advance if they plan to retain call records for less than 18 months, a way of encouraging without strictly requiring retention) and an amendment stripping away the crucial transparency provision that requires publication of significant FISA Court opinions, which is necessary to ensure that new safeguards can’t be secretly “reinterpreted” into irrelevance the same way the court secretly transformed §214 and §215 into bulk collection authorities.  While unfortunately there are probably quite a few senators in the “yes” column on USA Freedom who would also favor these changes, they’re likely to meet strong opposition from both technology companies and civil liberties groups, and it seems at the very least doubtful they’d make it through the House. For those who purport to think it’s essential to extend the expiring powers quickly, that should be a powerful argument for just moving with the language the House has already approved, so it can go speedily to the President’s desk.

This is a long but worthwhile read, especially if you have any interest whatsoever in the government eavesdropping on your internet communications.

I am a sucker for these nine creative DIY lighting projects for the home because lately I seem to have this light fetish of sorts:

And then there was light. Boring old light switches and fittings don’t really do it justice though, do they? That single lamp shade is pretty dull as it is, but so much more can be done, from decorating the lampshade to illuminating a whole room with a star field effect, and much more.

We’ve collected nine inspiring DIY lighting projects that you can use or adapt around your home. I think you’ll agree, the results are stunning.

Out of the nine projects, I really like the very first one – lights in a bottle. I drink wine and always thought throwing away the empty bottles to be such a waste. The idea of reusing used wine bottles as a lighting source is quite attractive. First off, wine bottles are, generally speaking, colored and with the addition of lights inside the bottle would add some unique ambiance to a room.

This is definitely something I am going to have to try. I already have two empty wine bottles and plan to make a run to Don Quixote for some cheap lights. Hopefully this turns out as well as I envision it should even though I do not exactly have the necessary tools or experience with this kind of stuff.

CNN is reporting that Japanese aquariums have finally agreed to stop taking dolphins hunted at Taiji, but only due to international pressure after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) suspended the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) for violating its code of ethics on animal welfare:

Japanese aquariums have narrowly avoided being thrown out of the global industry body by agreeing to stop buying dolphins caught in the controversial Taiji hunt.

Graphic images of slaughtered dolphins in red pools of blood attracted worldwide attention when Taiji was featured in the Academy Award-winning 2009 film “The Cove.”

Every year, hunters descend on the town in Wakayama Prefecture, where they’re licensed to kill nearly 2,000 and dolphins and porpoises from seven different species. Japan defends the practice as being in accordance with local customs.

Most are killed for their meat, but a “small proportion” are caught for live sales to aquariums worldwide, according to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

I am really glad to see the movie The Cove has had a major impact on such a horrible act of violence against these innocent animals and essentially for no good reason.

With more international pressure hopefully Taiji will come to the realization their so-called tradition is no better than other ostensible traditions like forced genital mutilation in Africa. Not that these acts are in any way, shape, or form are even remotely similar. That is not the point.

I mention this because the mere fact that those who perpetrate both acts claim tradition as the backdrop framing their argument. Just because something is tradition does not make it right.

In this case, Taiji is completely in the wrong about the history of their dolphin hunting tradition. The sooner they stop hunting dolphins the better.

I thought this entire article explaining how Roppongi Hills is a controversial blueprint for Tokyo’s new breed of high-rise was quite interesting. The following passage was especially enlightening:

The Roppongi neighbourhood is in the heart of the Yamanote, an area of the city centre ringed by the railway line – what Tokyo historian Edward Seidensticker called the “high city”, where the “proper people” lived. Except that Roppongi wasn’t considered proper. During the pre-modern era and blessed with abundant ground water, the area was populated by samurai warriors who supplemented their measly sinecures by raising goldfish. The tradition continued: the first head of the Roppongi Hills residents’ association, Tamotsu Hara, used to breed goldfish himself before his house was condemned and he moved to a comfortable corner unit on the 41st floor.

Before the war, Roppongi was home to the Japanese military; afterwards, the Americans used it for a base that outlasted the occupation. By the high-powered 1980s it had became Tokyo’s designated exotic demimonde, famous for bars and discos frequented by foreign residents and servicemen on the prowl. It was never as respectable as the nearby neighbourhoods, but it was on the edge of the commercial district that Minoru Mori’s family was quickly filling up with tall office buildings. In 1986, he gained permission from the Tokyo prefectural government to redevelop Roppongi, the biggest such project in the city’s history.

I had no idea Roppongi used to be a military town, especially with a base, but it sure explains why it has had such a lasting impression on foreigners in Tokyo.

What has been recently built in Futako-Tamagawa – the Rise shopping center and apartment complexes in particular – seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from Roppongi Hills.

If you have never tried Golden Milk, then you owe it to yourself to give try it just once. I almost guarantee you will enjoy both the taste and the affect it has on your body. I followed this Golden Milk recipe and love it. I’ve tried it both with Almond Milk and coconut milk, and most definitely prefer Almond because it is far lighter overall.

AP on the USS George Washington, the US Navy’s Japan-based aircraft carrier heading home and set to be relieved by the USS Ronald Reagan:

China’s aircraft carrier ambitions demonstrate the continuing importance of the mammoth ships in the western Pacific, a senior U.S. Navy officer said Monday, as America’s Japan-based carrier began a long journey home.

A symbol of American power in the Pacific, the USS George Washington left the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, its home port for the past seven years. It will be replaced by the USS Ronald Reagan, a newer version of the same ship.

“Everybody asks whether the aircraft carriers are obsolete,” Navy Rear Admiral John Alexander said at a dockside news conference before the ship departed. “I would say when other countries are building an aircraft carrier, they’re doing it for a reason, and the fact is you can actually have a bigger influence in the region.”

The USS Ronald Reagan will arrive in its new homeport in Yokosuka, Japan later this year, sometime in Autumn, and will become the flagship for Carrier Strike Group Five.

The Mainich reports that over 1,000 Japanese citizens are suing the Japanese government to halt involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

More than 1,000 people filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government Friday seeking to halt its involvement in the 12-country talks for a Pacific Rim free trade agreement as “unconstitutional.”

A total of 1,063 plaintiffs, including eight lawmakers, claimed in the case brought to the Tokyo District Court that the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact would undermine their basic human rights such as the right to live and know that are guaranteed under the Constitution.

The envisaged pact would not only benefit big corporations but jeopardize the country’s food safety and medical systems and destroy the domestic farm sector, according to their written complaint.

The U.S.-led TPP is aimed at setting new terms for trade and investment among the 12 countries bordering the Pacific, accounting for some 40 percent of global gross domestic product. Advocates have said the far-flung trade deal would boost economic growth and create new jobs.

The plaintiffs said, however, the TPP would change a number of rules and regulations concerning people’s lives “for the sake of the freedom and profits of global corporations.”

In my admittedly anecdotal experience, I have yet to meet a single Japanese citizen who has proclaimed any positive attitude towards the TPP. Everyone I have spoken to about the TPP expressed concerns over the potential for medical care, prescription medication, and agricultural products to dramatically increase in price. Nobody in Japan wants to see these things become more expensive than they are already.

Very few people realize the intellectual property aspect of the TPP is quite possibly the so-called trojan horse. This is the part that scares me the most.

Since the text of agreement is currently considered secret, it is no wonder Japanese citizens affected by this agreement are worried. Without the ability to read the details so they can hold their government accountable, the TPP just reeks of backroom political deals and outright corruption.

If this deal was beneficial for all parties involved there would be no reason to hide it from public consumption.

Smoke and mirrors.

Drunk or hungover salaryman

I saw this poor soul sitting on the side of the street this morning as I exited the Metro Station. Someone obviously had a really rough night and was trying to recover, presumably before heading to his final work day this week.

As I snapped the photo I saw a pretty looking woman with a nice figure walking toward me from the opposite direction I was headed. She apparently heard the camera shutter sound and screamed, “こ〜〜ら!” – “hey!” – at me with a voice deeper than Barry White.

Color me a tad surprised, for not being yelled at but because of the depth of her voice. It was completed unexpected, primarily because Tokyo is teeming with beautiful women, many of whom have high-pitched voices capable of shattering glass. Figuratively, I had an angry Japanese newhalf on my tail.

She continued to walk toward the hurting salaryman, while shouting at me again and giving me the evil, stink eye. I retorted with a simple, “piss off,” and walked away.

As I was about one-hundred feet away I heard her say in Japanese to the drunk salaryman, “some gaijin just took your picture.” I laughed it off as I continued to stroll towards the office.

This was an interesting, albeit fun, way to begin the day. It’s not everyday you see a supremely drunk salaryman passed out on the side of the street in the morning while fully clothed yet with all his effects on the ground beside him, much less being yelled at by an overprotective-for-no-reason Japanese transsexual.

All in all, just another day in Tokyo.

In the late 80’s, NASA joined forces with the Associated Contractors of America (ALCA) to research the most effective household plants for removing toxic agents from the air. The study found some plants were very effective at filtering out evil like benzene, ammonia and formaldehyde from the air, helping to neutralize the effects of sick building syndromeThis infographic is the Cliff Notes version of that study.