• East Asia
  • Emperor Akihito hints at abdication

    Emperor Akihito in 2014
    Emperor Akihito in 2014. Photo: William Ng, US State Department

    In only his second televised speech ever, Akihito, the emperor of Japan, hinted that he may want to be able to abdicate sometime in the future due to his advanced age and declining health. The Japanese constitution in its current form bars the emperor from abdicating, meaning that a change would be necessary in order to allow Akihito to step down in favour of the crown prince Naruhito.

    While the opinion of the public seem to be that the emperor should be allowed to retire and formally abdicate, there is considerably more resistance to such a change in the current government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and in particular among its conservative minor coalition partner party.

    Akihito, now 82 years old, has been emperor since 1989 when he succeeded his father emperor Hirohito (Showa) on the chrysanthemum throne.

  • communication
  • World’s longest tunnel is inaugurated

    The Gotthard Base Tunnel had its official inauguration ceremony on June 1. Even if normal traffic will not start until December.

    With a length of 57.5 km it is the current record-holder of longest tunnel, overtaking the earlier longest tunnel – Japanese Seikan tunnel between the tho islands of Honshu and Hokkaido – which is 53.9 km. The new Gotthard tunnel is simultaneously the world’s deepest tunnel with 2.3 km of mountain above its deepest point.

    Source: BBC News

  • Americas
  • Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia to be protected

    After long negotiations there has been what is hailed as a landmark deal in the efforts to protect one of western Canada’s most magnificent landscapes and its flora and fauna for the future.

    The temperate forests is rather unique to the North American west coast and in the Great Bear Rainforest lives among other species the spirit bears – a rare subspecies of the grizzly bear with white fur instead of the common brown-black.

    Source: BBC News

  • communication
  • A future tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn?

    Architect composite depiction of rail connection
    Architect composite depiction (Sweco).

    A preliminary feasibility study on a tunnel between the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Estonian capital of Tallinn concludes that the future construction of such a connection is worth more study.

    A rail transport connection between the two cities would include the construction of a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland at a current cost estimate of 9 to 13 billion euros.

    Source: YLE

  • culture
  • Only in Japan…

    Waitress in Akihabara café
    Waitress at the Meteor Shower cosplay café in Akihabara, Tokyo. Source: Anime News Network

    There are some things that just really can’t exist anywhere else than in Japan and even there only in some select places like the famous – or infamous – Akihabara district in Tokyo. Such as the latest addition to their very special café settings, this time it is a pop-up café with the special gimmick of having the staff wearing the easily recognizable Japanese school swimsuits and of course having a menu styled appropriately with beverages such as “sweet pool juice” and jello.

    The café which is a part of the cosplay café Meteor Shower is a promo for the June 14 release of the live-action film “Sweet Poolside”, adapted from a manga.

  • culture
  • The problem with Swiss nudist hikers

    Nudist hikers in Harz, Germany, where hiking in the nude is allowed. Photo: DPA.
    Nudist hikers in Harz, Germany, where hiking in the nude is allowed. Photo: DPA.

    The Swiss cantonal government of Appenzell Innerrhoden wants a new law in place to cope with the rise in popularity of nudist mountain hiking.

    I must admit that until I read this news, I hadn’t even reflected over the possibility that it was something that existed, and definitely not something that apparently has become so prevalent that the canton sees it as a problem. To be perfectly honest, I’m almost as surprised – if not more – to read that it apparently under current Swiss law is perfectly legal. As for the actual question at hand, I don’t know what to say.

    Photo: DPA

  • Europe
  • France’s turn to lead EU

    From 1 July France holds the rotating EU presidency and for the coming six months it’s up to french president Nicholas Sarkozy to try to steer the EU, a task that is made more complicated by the Irish no to the proposed reform treaty. Nevertheless he has ambitious plans for the future of the union. Beside trying to solve the administrative crisis brought on by the Irish referendum, high on the list are also the Mediterranean Union project and the climate.

    Source: Tagesschau.de