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Sat, 06 Mar 2021
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The Japanese Mayor Who was Laughed at for Building a Huge Sea Wall - Until His Village was Left Almost Untouched by Tsunami

The huge sea wall and floodgates took 12 years to build and had been widely regarded as a £20million folly. But today one former Japanese mayor is being hailed as a saviour after the grandiose construction allowed his small town escaped the devastation wrought by the March 11 tsunami.

In the rubble of Japan's northeast coast, Fudai stands as tall as ever after. No homes were swept away. In fact, they barely got wet.

The 3,000 residents owe their lives to the late Kotaku Wamura, who lived through an earlier tsunami and made it a priority of his four-decade tenure as mayor to defend his people from the next one.

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© The Associated Press
The 51-foot-high gate, which was criticised as being a wasteful public works project in the 1970s, protected the town from the tsunami

No Entry

US: End of an Era as Vegas Casino Closes

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© Agence France-Presse
View of a pool at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 11. Las Vegas marks the end of an era this week as one of the US gambling mecca's last original "Rat Pack" casino-hotels, the Sahara, finally closes its doors
Las Vegas marks the end of an era this week as one of the US gambling mecca's last original "Rat Pack" casino-hotels, the Sahara, finally closes its doors.

Opened in 1952, the Sahara hosted everyone from Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis to Frank Sinatra and the Beatles in the 1950s and 60s, and their photos still decorate the walls above the reception.

But in recent decades Vegas saw an explosion of mega-sized casino resorts which left the "small" Sahara struggling to fill its 1,700 rooms at the end of the famous Strip.

The death knell was sounded in March, when its owners since 2007, SBE Entertainment, announced that the casino-hotel complex with its more than 1,050 staff was no longer a viable business.

"In a way it was a surprise, but in a way it wasn't," Michael McLendon, a supervisor in the casino's poker room -- already deserted ahead of Monday's final day -- told AFP.

"The way things were going, with the economy and all, we felt something was happening. We just didn't know what it was," he said. "I'm retiring. I'm done. There are not too many people out there looking for a 66 year-old anyway."

Cheeseburger

EU: McDonald's to Replace Cashiers with Touch Screen Computers

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McDonald's restaurants in Europe will soon be swapping the chain's legendary "service with a smile" with "service with a beep." European McDonald's restaurants are preparing to replace cashiers with touch screen computers at terminals where customers will be able to order up their hamburgers and fries and pay with credit cards.

About 7,000 of the fast food franchise's locations in the United Kingdom will be fitted with the touch screen technology, which aims to make the McDonald's experience more convenient and accommodating.

The touch screen method of ordering will improve efficiency and make the average transaction three to four seconds faster for each customer, Steve Easterbrook, president of the European branch of McDonald's, told the Financial Times. Easterbrook didn't provide a date for when the touch screens, which were inspired by a trip to Japan, will be introduced to UK McDonald's restaurants.

The new terminals will also phase out cash as an accepted payment method, as the machines will only take credit and debit cards. No word yet on whether McDonald's in the United States will be next in line to replace cashiers with computers, but the addition doesn't seem to be part of the ongoing $1-billion makeover of the company's U.S. restaurants.

Bizarro Earth

Massacre Leaves 27 Dead in Northern Guatemala

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© Hector Tobar / Los Angeles Times
In this 2008 photo, a Guatemalan soldier patrols a nature preserve in Peten, a region said to be crisscrossed with drug traffickers' illegal landing strips.
Witnesses say an attack by 200 gunmen killed at least 27 farmworkers in Guatemala's Peten province, an area used by Mexican-based drug cartels. The victims were decapitated.

At least 27 people were slain early Sunday in a remote area of northern Guatemala that has become a key base for Mexican drug-trafficking groups, authorities said.

Police said a small army of gunmen attacked workers on a coconut farm in the northern province of Peten, a zone that has become increasingly dangerous as Mexican drug smugglers extend operations in Central America to escape a crackdown at home.

The victims included 25 men and two women, all of whom were decapitated, according to Jaime Leonel Otzin, director of Guatemala's National Civil Police. He said witnesses reported that the attack was carried out by 200 gunmen, who arrived in buses.

Authorities had not determined a motive.

Gear

The Draw of Doomsday: Why People Look Forward to the End

Doomsday
© Marijus Auruskevicius / Dreamstime.com
Doomsdayers have many ideas about when and how the world will end.

Most people go through their daily lives assuming that tomorrow will be a lot like today. No pits of fire will open up, society won't collapse, and the world, most likely, won't end.

But for others, doom has a certain appeal.

The most famous example these days is Harold Camping, a California-based Christian radio broadcaster who believes that May 21, 2011, will mark Judgment Day, ushering in five months of torment for the unsaved until the universe finally ends on Oct. 21. Camping has bought billboards and dispatched caravans of believers around the country, warning the world of its fate.

"It's going to be a wonderful, wonderful day," Camping told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter last June.

Camping has made this prediction before, in 1994 - it didn't pan out - but the thousands of failed doomsday predictions throughout history are no match for what Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, calls the "apocalyptic worldview."

"It's a very persistent and potent way of understanding the world," DiTommaso told LiveScience.

Light Sabers

IMF chief denied bail in hotel sex assault case

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© Flickr
US President Barack Obama (R) greets International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (L) for the G-20 official dinner Septmber 24, 2009.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking maid in NYC penthouse suite

New York - A judge on Monday ordered the head of the International Monetary Fund to remain jailed at least until his next court hearing on charges he sexually assaulted a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it.

A tired and grim-looking IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson to answer to charges that include attempted rape.

The judge granted prosecutors' request to hold Strauss-Kahn without bail and set the next court date for May 20.

Prosecutors had argued he might flee to France if he were released on bail. They said preliminary forensic evidence will validate the victim's claims.

Defense lawyers suggested bail be set at $1 million, saying Strauss-Kahn denies any wrongdoing and is cooperating with investigators. One of his lawyer's, Ben Brafman, said it was "quite likely he will be exonerated.'' Strauss-Kahn will testify he was having lunch at the time the woman alleges she was attacked, his lawyers said.


Wall Street

FBI: Child Sex Trafficking at Epidemic Levels

A recent FBI law enforcement bulletin reports that child sex trafficking is an epidemic in the United States, with about 300,000 children at risk of being victimized by the sex trade.

Experts say most child victims in the U.S. are from poor neighborhoods and broken homes.

"Most of the girls that we work with come from a broken home, maybe a single-headed household, where there is a lot of poverty," Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Fund, told Press TV. Fair Fund is an international nonprofit that works to prevent human trafficking and sexual violence in the lives of youth, especially girls, around the world.

The average age of children being drawn into the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old.


"No matter where we would pull in different truck stops, there were always other truckers talking on their CBs to let other truckers know that I was available," Kristy Childs said. Childs became a victim at the age of 12 and was prostituted out in different cities and truck stops for six years.

A new documentary, "Sex and Money - a National Search for Human Worth," exposes the scope of this tragedy inside the U.S.

The producers of the film are currently on a 50-state tour to raise child sex trafficking awareness.

Clock

Japan Maintains Fukushima Reactor Timetable Despite Damage Discovery

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© Reuters
Illustration: Smoke is seen coming from the area of the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan
Tokyo - Japanese officials on Monday reiterated their commitment to bring the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex under control within the six to nine month timetable announced mid-April despite recent discoveries that its reactors are more heavily damaged than previously believed.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that the plant's three damaged reactors--Units 1-3--should be safely shut down in line with the schedule unveiled on April 17.

"I believe we can maintain the original timeframe," Kan told parliament.

The prime minister's special adviser on the nuclear issue, Goshi Hosono, said the plan is realistic because the reactors are continuing to cool down and are therefore moving to a safe condition.

Red Flag

Gulf Coast Syndrome

Spraying chemical dispersant Corexit
© n/a
Spraying chemical dispersant Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico
A year after the BP disaster, some Southerners say they're coming down with mysterious and frightening illnesses

"This is the best-hidden secret perhaps in the history of our nation."

Dr. Mike Robichaux speaks into a microphone while standing on a truck bed in the shade of a massive tree in his yard in Raceland, La. He's wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans, and his white-gray hair is parted neatly. The former state senator, known affectionately as Dr. Mike, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Lafourche Parish and self-described "too easygoing of a guy." But today, he's pissed.

"Nobody is fussing about this," he says.

Robichaux invited his patients and dozens of others to speak about their situations. Outside of neighborhood papers with names like the Houma Courier, the Daily Comet and Tri-Parish Times, their stories exist solely on blogs and Facebook - unless you visit Al Jazeera English, or sources in Germany, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe.

Heart - Black

Bush calls bin Laden death "judgment"

Las Vegas - George W. Bush says he was "not overjoyed" when President Barack Obama told him Osama bin Laden was dead because the campaign to track down the al-Qaeda leader was done not "out of hatred, but to exact judgment."

ABC News reports Bush made his first candid public comments on bin Laden's killing Wednesday at a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas. The former president said he was at a restaurant when he got Obama's call. Bush said Obama described the secret mission in detail. Bush said he told Obama, "Good call," and noted, "The intelligence services deserve a lot of credit."