In Japan, Cute Conquers All

This looks mildly interesting… http://www.dancetechconference.com/
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MSNBC: Feds get tough with ex-ImClone exec
Federal prosecutors are playing hardball in plea negotiations with former ImClone Systems Inc. Chief Executive Samuel Waksal, demanding that he serve between seven and 10 years in prison on insider-trading charges, and declining to spare his family members from prosecution.
7-10 years may seem tough in comparison to prior white-collar crime sentences, but let’s add up all the money he lost for his shareholders and employees, and figure out how much time it would take to rebuild even a tiny fraction of that amount. The 75 year maximum sentence wouldn’t even come close.
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BusinessWeek: In Japan, Cute Conquers All
Japanese cute, which the Japanese call kawaii, isn’t just a marketing gimmick. It’s embedded in the culture and manifests itself in social and gender roles, particularly those of young Japanese women. Cute isn’t just a fashion statement — pink lipstick, butterfly hair bands, and pastel colors — it’s also a mode of behavior. Cute girls often act silly, affect squeaky voices, pout and stamp their feet when they’re angry. It seems to be a cultural statement.
Japanese feminists charge that all this cute chic is really about the cultural domination and exploitation of women in the country. It encourages girls and young women well into their late 20s to act submissive, weak, and innocent rather than mature, assertive, and independent. There’s no denying that ultracute girls are a steady staple in Japanese pornography. Even boys are getting into the cute — or at least asexual — look. The latest trend: Japanese boys are shaving their legs for the summer, short-pants season.

Sanrio is definitely one of the most interesting companies coming out of Japan. I’m positive there’s room for more companies like Sanrio. The other key thing is that Japan’s definition of cute works all across the globe- everyone loves Kitty-chan. She’s the best!
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FT: No link because they require you to pay…
His [ex-Governor Tanaka’s] battle to regain the governorship of the central prefecture is attracting nationwide interest as pundits draw parallels between his struggle with the vested interests of Nagano and those of Junichiro Koizumi, the nearly-as-colourful prime minister, with the Liberal Democratic party.
Both men have taken on the construction lobby as a symbol of all that is rotten in Japan’s body politic. Not only does construction gobble up more than a quarter of national expenditure, they say, but it has also become an instrument of political barter used by the LDP to funnel huge quantities of cash to favoured communities.
Mr Koizumi has stirred enormous venom this year by taking a scalpel to the public works budget and urging the privatisation of four state bodies responsible for spending it.
Mr Tanaka, who swept to the governorship of previously conservative Nagano in October 2000, has antagonised many by declaring a moratorium on the construction of new dams. “My no-more-dam policy is not only about the environment but also about how to spend taxes properly,” says Mr Tanaka. “These things cost a huge amount of money and most of it goes to the general contractors who have no branches in Nagano.”

Amen. The construction lobby is the worst kind of disease in Japan. Corrupt and huge and touches almost every part of Japanese society.
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LAT: Japanese Workers Are All Work, Little Play
In fact, the trend in the world’s second-largest economy is in the opposite direction. Japanese nowadays take just 49.5% of their 18-day vacation allowance, the government says. That’s the fifth consecutive nose-to-the-grindstone reduction, down from 61.1% during the holiday heyday of 1980.
This contrasts with the stress-buster French and Germans, who take virtually every minute of the six weeks they’re allotted, according to comparative figures by the Japanese government, and Americans on average take three-quarters of their 17 days allowed.

I get this impression that the Japanese work so hard but for naught. At least nothing for the past 10 years. Also, I don’t think the younger generations are working nearly as hard. If you entered the Japanese economy during the recession, you may not have had a job to work at in the first place.
Besides, the Europeans have the best quality of life, so why not emulate them instead 🙂
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NY Times: Merrill Replaced Research Analyst Who Upset Enron
In the summer of 1998, when it was eager to win more investment banking business from Enron, Merrill Lynch replaced a research analyst who had angered Enron executives by rating the company’s stock “neutral” with an analyst who soon upgraded the rating, according to Congressional investigators.
The move by Merrill Lynch came after two Merrill executives wrote a memo that April to the firm’s president, Herbert Allison, saying that Merrill had lost a lucrative stock underwriting deal because Enron executives had a “visceral” dislike of the research analyst, John Olson, and what he told investors about Enron stock, according to documents obtained by investigators for a Senate panel looking into the relationship among Enron and its banks.

The corporate greed knows no boundaries. Here’s the best evidence that banks who rate companies shouldn’t be allowed to also sell them services.
I know people at Merrill. Are they all greedy and unethical? Probably not. But we won’t ever know for sure, will we? Only when the profit motive is taken completely away from the ratings will we know for sure. Just like how auditors should not sell consulting services, banks who’re rating companies shouldn’t be selling to those same companies.