Tokyo (AFP) - Japan's biggest organised crime syndicate has launched its own website, complete with a corporate song and a strong anti-drugs message, as the yakuza looks to turn around its outdated image and falling membership.

The clunky-sounding "Banish Drugs and Purify the Nation League" website is an offering from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest yakuza grouping.

It includes shakily-shot footage of members making their New Year pilgrimage to a shrine. The soundtrack is a traditional folk-style song with lyrics extolling the virtues of the "Ninkyo" spirit -- an ideal of masculinity that battles injustice and helps the weak.

"Nothing but Ninkyo, that is the man's way of life," say the lyrics. "The way of duty and compassion, bearing the ordeal for our dream."

Another video shows men with crew cuts pounding sticky rice for a New Year festival, and there are galleries of pictures showcasing the clean-up work members did in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

The website is not the Yamaguchi-gumi's first foray into media -- the crime syndicate last year began publishing a magazine for its members that includes a poetry page, senior gangsters' fishing diaries and a message from the boss.

Like the Italian mob or Chinese triads, yakuza syndicates are involved in activities ranging from prostitution to extortion and white-collar crime.

But unlike their underworld counterparts elsewhere, the yakuza are not illegal and each of the designated groups, like the Yamaguchi-gumi, have their own headquarters, with senior members dishing out business cards.

They have historically been tolerated by the authorities, sometimes with corrupt police overlooking their violence, and are routinely glamorised in fanzines and manga comics.

- membership at an all-time low -

But periodic crackdowns have gained momentum and there is evidence the mob's appeal is waning.

An increasingly poor public image and Japan's flaccid economy have made the lives of the gangsters difficult, which has made membership less attractive for potential recruits, experts said.

The website, which looks outdated, is an attempt to counter the yakuza's image as "anti-social forces" -- the police euphemism for them -- by showing how neighbourly its members are, experts say.

One page shows men collecting litter along the banks of the Toga River near the Yamaguchi-gumi's headquarters in Kobe, western Japan, with a nearby sign reading: "Purge yakuza."

Jake Adelstein, a journalist and author who has written extensively on organised crime in Japan, said the Yamaguchi-gumi's online offering was an effort to prove its humanitarian credentials.

"By presenting an anti-drugs theme, it shows concern for social welfare, it shows pictures of the group doing emergency relief after the (2011) and Kobe earthquakes," he told AFP.

He said it was true that the yakuza made use of their "ties to the trucking industry and their abundance of cash, lack of red tape and institutional memory" to provide help after the disasters.

But, he added, "there was a certain amount of self-interest involved -- getting in with the locals helps them get a share of the reconstruction money."

Adelstein, whose account of his life working the crime beat for a Japanese newspaper is being made into a film starring Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, said the site was an attempt to whitewash an unsavoury truth.

"The yakuza motto is 'help the weak and fight the strong.' In practice, it's usually the reverse," he said.

Police officials said they could not immediately confirm the website was made by the Yamaguchi-gumi, nor comment on it.

The website, which comes complete with a "contact us" button, can be found at:

A highly acclaimed study by Haruko Obokata, a rising star in Japanese scientific circles, who said she discovered a new and simple method to engineer pluripotent stem cells, is facing allegations that some of the images documenting her finding show irregularities. Obokata, 30, who leads a research unit at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, said in late January that she and her colleagues discovered a mechanism called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP), whereby strong external stresses, such as an acid bath, could reprogram mouse somatic cells into pluripotent cells, which can develop into body organs and tissue. Her research results were published in a pair of companion papers in Nature, the prestigious British scientific journal.

The Riken national research institute began looking into the case after an outside expert informed it Feb. 13 that some of the images looked questionable. The Nature magazine also opened investigations into the matter.

But Riken maintains the veracity of the research results remains well-grounded.

"We don't plan to have Obokata comment on the matter on her own," a Riken official said.

Online blogs specializing in uncovering irregularities in scientific research, such as the ones over studies on the hypertension drug Diovan that developed into a major scandal, called Obokata's Nature articles into question on Feb. 13.

The blog sites said two photos in one of the papers, which purportedly show mouse placentas under different conditions, look extremely similar.

Teruhiko Wakayama, a co-author of the Nature papers, admitted a "simple mistake" resulted in a mix-up of photo images. He admitted the two photos showed the same animal.

"We used two shots of an identical mouse taken from different angles," Wakayama, a professor of developmental engineering with the University of Yamanashi, told The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 18. "The second photo ended up irrelevant to the text of our final manuscript, which we had revised over and over. But we forgot to delete it."

According to Wakayama, the team of scientists turned around and flipped over several mouse embryos, engineered from STAP cells, in several hundred photographs. Obokata, confused, ended up using two photos showing the same embryo, he said.

Her extremely heavy workload, whereby she had to conduct additional tests by herself while concurrently preparing figures, was another factor behind the mix-up, Wakayama added.

The blogs also said an image in Obokata's other Nature article contains unnatural linear features that may indicate the photo was doctored.

Bloggers also raised suspicions over an earlier paper that Obokata published in 2011 from the time she studied at Harvard University. It said several images in the publication could be duplications of an identical image.

Obokata, who obtained her Ph.D. from Waseda University in Tokyo, cited her 2011 article in her doctoral dissertation, which also uses the images in question.

The images represent the results of tests to discover which genes were active. Several images in the paper are strikingly similar, although they are supposed to show tests on different genes.

"It certainly appears to have been an honest mistake," Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiology professor and Obokata's supervisor at Harvard Medical School, told Nature magazine. He asked the scientific journal last week to withdraw the images from her 2011 article.

Waseda University opened its own investigation on Feb. 18, but denied there would be far-reaching consequences.

"We don't believe the main points of the Ph.D. dissertation would be affected even if the images in question were to be withdrawn," a Waseda University representative said.

(Michiko Nakamura and Ryoma Komiyama contributed to this article.)

from the ASAHI SHIMBUN‘Asia Watch’

There are more than 60 different species of opossum, which are often called possums. The most notable is the Virginia opossum or common opossum—the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada.

A female opossum gives birth to helpless young as tiny as honeybees. Babies immediately crawl into the mother's pouch, where they continue to develop. As they get larger, they will go in and out of the pouch and sometimes ride on the mother's back as she hunts for food. Opossums may give birth to as many as 20 babies in a litter, but fewer than half of them survive. Some never even make it as far as the pouch.

Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. They are attracted to carrion and can often be spotted near roadkill. Opossums also eat grass, nuts, and fruit. They will hunt mice, birds, insects, worms, snakes, and even chickens.

These animals are most famous for "playing possum." When threatened by dogs, foxes, or bobcats, opossums sometimes flop onto their sides and lie on the ground with their eyes closed or staring fixedly into space. They extend their tongues and generally appear to be dead. This ploy may put a predator off its guard and allow the opossum an opportunity to make its escape.

Opossums are excellent tree climbers and spend much of their time aloft. They are aided in this by sharp claws, which dig into bark, and by a long prehensile (gripping) tail that can be used as an extra limb. Opossums nest in tree holes or in dens made by other animals.

These animals are widespread and are sometimes hunted as food, particularly in the southern United States.

レジスタードトレードマークNational Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

The positive effects of "placebo sleep"

Study: Believing You’ve Slept Well, Even If You Haven't, Improves Performance

Problem: Who even sleeps anymore? You and everyone you know are probably loading yourselves up with coffee or whatever your stimulant of choice is so you can plod through your day as some semblance of an upright human being. Then you get home and you don’t go to bed early enough because this is the only me-time you get, damn it, and if you want to watch three hours of Netflix, then you will. Or you try to go to sleep but you fail and end up tossing and turning, because sleeping is actually kind of hard, and the more you want it, the more it slips through your grasp.

But maybe the knowledge that you aren’t sleeping enough is part of what’s keeping you trapped in your swamp of lethargy during the day. Maybe if you were sweetly, blithely ignorant of your somnial failings, you’d feel more chipper and work more efficiently. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from Colorado College tested the effects of being told you’re getting enough sleep—“placebo sleep,” as they call it.

Methodology: Participating undergrads first reported how deeply they’d slept the night before, on a scale of one to 10. The researchers then gave the participants a quick, five-minute lesson about sleep’s effect on cognitive function, telling them it was just background information for the study. During the lesson, they said that adults normally spend between 20 and 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, and that getting less REM sleep than that tends to cause lower performance on learning tests. They also said that those who spend more than 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep usually perform better on such tests.

Then participants were hooked up to equipment that they were told would read their pulse, heartrate, and brainwave frequency, though it actually just measured their brainwave frequency. They were told that these measurements would allow the researchers to tell how much REM sleep they’d gotten the night before. This was not true.

Then one of the experimenters pretended to calculate that each participant got either 16.2 percent REM sleep or 28.7 percent REM sleep the previous evening. After getting their reading, participants took a test that measures “auditory attention and speed of processing, skills most affected by sleep deprivation,” according to the study.

A second experiment repeated these conditions, while controlling for experiment bias.

Results: Participants who were told they had above-average REM sleep performed better on the test, and those who were told their REM sleep was below average performed worse, even when researchers controlled for the subjects’ self-reported sleep quality.

Implications: A great victory was won here for lies, over truth. This study shows that if you’re in the mindset that you’re well-rested, your brain will perform better, regardless of the actual quality of your sleep. Conversely, constantly talking about how tired you are, as so often happens in our culture, might be detrimental to your performance.

コピーライトJournal of Experimental Psychology

The 27-year-old right-hander, who went 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA last season and led the majors with 277 strikeouts, threw his first live batting practice session of the spring Tuesday and said he felt good. Darvish experienced lower back pain in September and received an injection after the season. Altering his offseason program to include lifting less weight helped the pain go away in mid-January, he said.

He is slated to be the team's Opening Day starter and is focused on preparing for the season. It helps that this is his third spring training in the big leagues.

"I'm more relaxed, and I can do many things at my own pace, and I'm aware of what's going on, and people know me better than in the past," he said. "So I feel more relaxed this time."

So what did Yu Darvish think of the new posting system and what the New York Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka -- a contract that could pay him $99 million more in guaranteed money than Darvish got from the Texas Rangers?

"I don't know the details of the posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him a little bit too much," said Darvish, chuckling along with his interpreter as he talked to the media for the first time since the end of last season.

Darvish later released a statement, saying the comment was a joke.

"I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today," he said. "I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking."

Darvish did say in speaking with the media that he thought pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iwakuma and himself affected "how the scouts and teams evaluated Tanaka."

Tanaka signed with the Yankees last month for $155 million over seven years, an average of $22.1 million per year. That did not include the $20 million posting fee the Yankees paid Tanaka's Japanese team.

The system has changed, meaning the pitcher receives more of the money than the team. It also means the Rangers have a bargain on their hands. Darvish can opt out of the final year of his deal if he wins the Cy Young in the next three seasons or is in the top four of the voting in two of the next three years.

Yu Darvish believes his performance in the big leagues affected "how the scouts and teams evaluated [Masahiro] Tanaka."(

A lack of protein in the modern diet is a cause of overeating and is a big factor in causing obesity, an Australian university study has found.

Research from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre found the instinctive appetite for protein in humans is so powerful people continue to eat until their bodies get the right amount of protein.

It said the overriding drive for dietary protein was a core factor in the global obesity epidemic, especially as diets shifted towards an increased proportion of foods higher in carbohydrates and fats and with protein reduced.

"We found that regardless of your age or body mass index, your appetite for protein is so strong that you will keep eating until you get enough protein, which could mean eating much more than you should," said lead author Dr Alison Gosby.

The research collated the results of 38 published experimental trials measuring the unrestricted energy intake of people on different diets, and is published online in Obesity Reviews.

It found, for the first time, that reducing the percentage of dietary protein will result in total energy intake increasing as the percentage of protein in diets decreases.

"When you consume things like soft drinks, which are fairly low in proportion of protein but high in calories, your energy intake will increase because you'll need to keep eating to get the protein you need," Dr Gosby said.

Most people ate the right amount of protein but ate too much to get it.

More than a million adult Kiwis, or 28 per cent of people aged 15 and over, are obese, says this year's Ministry of Health annual report.

But AUT Professor of Public Health Grant Schofield did not think lack of protein was the cause of Kiwi obesity.

"I think the major problem in New Zealand is over-supply and eating of processed dietary carbs."

He said processed carbohydrates upset the hormonal and neural mechanisms in the body, which controlled eating and hunger.

Student Mosab Askar, 28, from Saudi Arabia, says he finds himself eating more in New Zealand.

"We eat out often here and most of the food we get are not really balanced meals."

- NZ Herald

In the wintertime it’s easy to feel like you live in the snowiest place on the earth,

but that distinction belongs to the Japanese Alps, on the island of Honshu.

Snowfall in those mountains can reach between 100 and 125 feet in a single year.

The large snowfall is due to Siberian winds that sweep in off the nearby Russian landmass, bringing moisture and cold air.

The snowfall in the Japanese Alps is so heavy that it’s become a tourist attraction. A road called the Yuki-no-Otani Snow Canyon is kept open all winter, and is often surrounded by snow walls around 30 feet high.

Back in the U.S., the National Park Service considers Paradise Ranger Station on Mt. Rainier, in Washington State, to be the snowiest spot. The station averages around 53 feet of snow a year. And in the winter of 1971-1972, more than 90 feet of snow fell, the mountain's snowiest on record.

But the snowiest single day on record in the world belongs to the Rocky Mountain town of Silver Lake, Colorado. During April 14 and 15, 1921, a storm dropped 76 inches of snow in 24 hours – more than six feet in one day. Strong winds off the Great Plains frequently cause large snowfall amounts in the Eastern Rockies.

Most of these snowy places are sparsely populated, but for U.S. cities with more than 50,000 people, the snow crown goes to Syracuse, New York, which averages around 9 feet of snow every year.

So if you live in upstate New York, you really can claim to live in one of the snowiest places. Hopefully, Santa brought everyone in Syracuse a snow shovel this year for Christmas.(Yahoo! news)

An individual who needs to get over being outraged in order to live a more productive and harm-free life can sometimes get help. Anger managers have strategies for escorting people through periods of pique.

The emotion of anger, explains Rich Pfeiffer, president of the National Anger Management Association, "activates the 'primitive' human brain — sometimes called the limbic system — which is automatic and impulsive, and if you are functioning out of the primitive part of your brain, you tend to want to punish, hurt, get back at, teach a lesson, or do something destructive to the person triggering your anger."

Anger managers tell us that we should slow down our reaction to anger "in order to have time to respond out of our more evolved brain — sometimes called the neocortex — which has the capacity to be reasonable, rational and logical," Pfeiffer says.

Courses in managing fury suggest taking deep breaths, going for a walk — anything to separate yourself from the source of your anger.

A Two-Step Recovery Program

A nation, on the other hand, doesn't always have time to count to 10 or the ability to get away from itself. It doesn't always recover quickly or easily from periods of anger. And some historians are not so sure that it should.

"Why assume that anger is always something to 'get over?' " asks Jane Dailey, who teaches American history at the University of Chicago. "Is it always negative or unproductive? Obviously we don't want to devolve into assaults on the floor of the Senate — although I can think of one or two people who might benefit from caning — but there are times when rage is productive."

Ushering the country through angry, divisive periods, says Mary Niall Mitchell, an American history professor at the University of New Orleans, has traditionally required a couple of things — a sort of two-step recovery program.

The first step, Mitchell says, is some crisis or occurrence "that took the collective attention away from the source of anger."

The second step is "a great deal of forgetting," she says. "That forgetting — which is not to say forgiving — depended, in part, on the telling of new stories about the recent past."

The creation of a new historical memory, one that was at odds with the historical record, Mitchell says, "generally came at a great cost."

She uses the Civil War and Reconstruction to illustrate. The crises that distracted the angry nation in the wake of the war, she says, were a financial panic and wars against Native Americans in the West.

The forgetting was the explanation by certain historians of the war's aftermath "as one of reunion between the North and South achieved by rewriting the history of the Civil War," Mitchell explains. "It was no longer a war to end slavery — in this interpretation — but rather a war over 'states' rights,' indeed, a war between brothers; and it was time, many argued in the 1890s and later, for the brothers to bury the hatchet."

The Confederacy took on a romantic glow — with the myth of the "Lost Cause" — Mitchell says, and the South was portrayed in movies such as Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind "as a 'lost civilization' where all slaves were happy and all hell broke loose with emancipation."

Mitchell says that, as historian David Blight has pointed out, Frederick Douglass foresaw the revisionism coming and the worsening plight of African-Americans as the nation set about getting past its anger.

"Douglass, of course, was angry having fought so hard for African-American freedom and citizenship," Mitchell says. And "you could argue that the leaders of the civil rights movement carried forward Douglass' anger and frustration, and were able to restore the rights that Reconstruction's aftermath had eliminated."

So, says Mitchell, "with my historian's hat on, I'm leery of the notion of getting over the anger. The lesson, I suppose, is to always remember exactly why we were angry in the first place."

There are, then, ways for a nation to soldier through angry eras. We have seen in recent times how a crisis — say Sept. 11 or the Tucson shootings — can refocus our attention and repurpose our emotions.

But in this day and age, forgetting may not be as simple — or as acceptable — as it once was. With our deep databases, powerful search engines and countless websites, blogs and bulletin boards and interminably talkative media, it is arguably easier to remember — and easier to remind others — about the inaction or injustice that originally made us mad. Really, really mad. (National Public Radio)

Does your life ever seem like a trap you can't escape because you have failed too much in all important areas of your life?

I empathize, because I have been there a few times (read: unemployed, broke, lonely, depressed).

I want to share with you three habits that will turn your life around and free you from your trap - if your take them up.

It worked for me and many others, so give it a try.

The three habits are not solutions to specific problems, but rather something you can do to master any tough spot and create well-being for yourself so you can lead your life towards success. (Success results from well-being more so than the other way around).

1. Move and break a sweat six days a week

Yes, I know it can be hard. But you'll know it's the right thing to do by how great you feel after a workout: calm and clearheaded, relaxed and fresh, able to tackle whatever needs tackling. Able to make things happen.

If you are a stranger to using your body, go into this new territory of movement by doing whatever draws you in: if dancing attracts you, then dance. If your muscles are screaming to be exerted and exhausted, do strength training, sprinting – or whatever feels good to you. How much you need and want to move on a given day depends on you and your physical state. (Check with your doctor first how much and what kind of movement is right for your individual needs.) But do it six days a week. You can thank me later.

Make this a habit like brushing your teeth. Just as with brushing your teeth, you know you have to do it because you'll end up smelling, looking and feeling awful and unhealthy if you don't. It's the same with your workout: You'll feel dejected, irritable, too cerebral, disconnected from your body, and confused if you don't keep at it. Just speaking from experience.

Break a sweat and clear your mind: The world and your problems will look different afterwards.

2. Learn to help yourself

Can you afford a therapist as often as you need one? Do you always have someone to talk to who will understand, listen without judgment and coach you through a tough spot?

If not (welcome to the club!), you will be happier for having ways to dig yourself out of a hole - without the help of others. There are many ways and you have to find out which ones are the best fit for you. Here's a short selection:

• meditation
• yoga
• systematically questioning the thoughts and beliefs that make you unhappy
• energy work (aka energy healing), like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, or tapping), The Emotion Code, and many more
• journaling
• etc.

All these approaches help you get rid of the thoughts and emotions troubling you. They get you back in the present, into your body, and lead you to knowing the next steps you can take in your situation.

3. Make an effort to enjoy your life and have fun every day

Happiness doesn't come from removing your problems from your life. To live a life fulfilled and passionate, which you secretly want (don't you?), you need to add something important: fun, enjoyment, pleasure. It's your lifeline! If you don't make an effort to have fun every day, your life will be dull and boring, even if all your problems suddenly disappeared. For what is the purpose of being alive? Is it just working through one problem after another? Or is it enjoying this life, this body, this incredible planet with each other?

How to have fun: Follow your desires!

In each one of us, there are big, burning desires, whether or not you feel them. Can't think of something you would really love to do? Start with something you'd kind of like to do, and find a way, however small, to do it. Start having fun every single day. Make the fun a bit bigger and bolder. Go deeper inside and admit what you really, really want. Feeling the desire alone, and imagining what it would be like to get exactly what you want (while banishing all thoughts about how it isn't possible) can be very pleasurable in itself. Try it!

Start making these three things into habits and you won't regret it. I have found them to be indispensable, the corner stones of happiness. When I break them from time to time and end up feeling depressed and overwhelmed by life, I know why I adopted them in the first place.

Make time for each of them. Your life will change and there will come a point when you look back, maybe at an old photo, and ask yourself: Who was that unhappy, worried, confused, limited person? You don't recognize her or him because you have turned yourself into someone who can make things happen. Who creates their own happiness. You did it: You have turned your life around.(Dumb Little Man)

Written on 11/3/2013 by Julia Felberbauer. Julia Felberbauer is from Austria and runs her own business, helping people all over the world enjoy their lives more by releasing stubborn their blocks and burdens with energy work. She is a certified practitioner of The Emotion Code, the energy work technique she uses to help her clients and herself. She is also enthusiastic about writing blog posts that are honest to the point of embarrassment! Find her at .