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From The Asian Reporter, V26, #23 (December 5, 2016), pages 2 & 3.

5,000 fish in ice at Japan skating rink sparks uproar

TOKYO (AP) — An amusement park in western Japan sparked an uproar after it displayed about 5,000 dead fish in the ice at a skating rink, forcing the park to close the attraction. Space World received a flood of criticism on social media after opening the rink on November 12. It closed the next day. About 25 different kinds of fish could be seen under the 820-foot-long ice circuit. The park in the city of Kitakyushu opened the "Ice Aquarium" as an "attraction never heard about." Japanese broadcaster NHK showed the fish frozen in ice on a blue floor, so it looked like they were swimming below the ice. Some formed a school to spell out "HELLO" or make an arrow-shaped sign in the ice. The general manager of Space World, Toshimi Takeda, said many critical messages were posted on social media, some condemning the concept as abusing living things. Takeda said the fish in the ice had been intended "to give the feel of the ocean to the ice skating rink," and that the amusement park is "extremely remorseful to have invoked such unpleasant feelings." Space World said the fish were purchased from a fish market, and were dead before the water was frozen. The operator planned to hold a memorial service for the fish once they’re taken out of the ice.

Asia odd news: Azalea the smoking chimp

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Pyongyang’s recently opened zoo has a new star: Azalea, the smoking chimpanzee. According to officials at the newly renovated zoo, which has become a favorite leisure spot in the North Korean capital since it re-opened in July, the 19-year-old female chimpanzee, whose name in Korean is "Dallae," smokes about a pack a day. Dallae is short for azalea. They insist, however, she doesn’t inhale. Thrown a lighter by a zoo trainer, the chimpanzee lights her own cigarettes. If a lighter isn’t available, she can light up from a lit cigarette if one is tossed her way. Though such a sight would draw outrage in many other locales, it seemed to delight visitors who roared with laughter as the chimpanzee, one of two at the zoo, sat puffing away as her trainer egged her on. The trainer also prompted her to touch her nose, bow thank you, and do a simple dance.

Blue pills in Blue House: S. Korean leader explains Viagra

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Little blue pills in the Blue House? South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s office confirmed revelations by an opposition lawmaker that it purchased about 360 erectile dysfunction Viagra pills and the generic version of the drug last December. While the report created a frenzy on the internet, Park’s office said the pills were bought to potentially treat altitude sickness for presidential aides and employees on Park’s May trips to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, whose capitals are 0.6 to 1.2 miles above sea level. The pills weren’t used, said Jung Youn-kuk, spokesman of the presidential Blue House. South Korean doctors sometimes prescribe Viagra-style drugs to climbers because they are believed to be effective in preventing altitude sickness. The Viagra revelation was just the latest twist in the massive political scandal building around Park. Prosecutors indicted Park and two former presidential aides. Prosecutors believe Park was collusively involved in the criminal activities of her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, and the two aides, who allegedly bullied companies into giving tens of millions of dollars to foundations and businesses Choi controlled, and also enabled Choi to interfere with state affairs.

Vietnam formally scraps plans for first nuclear power plants

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s legislature has endorsed the government’s decision to scrap plans to build the country’s first two nuclear power plants. The government announcement of the endorsement said cheaper renewable energy and power imports were available and that investment should be made in more urgent infrastructure needs. The National Assembly in 2009 approved plans to build two nuclear power plants with combined capacity of 4,000 megawatts. Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2014 but was delayed several times. The contracts to build the plants were awarded to companies from Russia and Japan. The construction partners regretted that Vietnam was scrapping the plans but respected the decision, the government said. The cancellation dealt a blow to Japan’s plans to export nuclear power plants to counter shrinking sales at home since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The two plants would have contributed about 5.7 percent of Vietnam’s power output when completed in 2030 and that could be offset by other sources of energy, the government said. State media reports said the nuclear power plants were not economically viable because of cheaper sources of power such as coal and gas and that the costs of the plants had doubled to $18 billion.

Toyota says new technology means longer battery life

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. says it has developed a new way of observing the movements of tiny particles in a battery used to power electric vehicles — an advance it says will help boost their cruise range by 10 percent to 15 percent. Toyota engineer Hisao Yamashige explained to reporters at the Japanese automaker’s Tokyo office that the complex method for tracking the lithium ions, which are tiny particles in lithium-ion batteries, is also used in laptops and smartphones. Increasing cruise range is the biggest obstacle for electric vehicles, especially because powering stations aren’t as common as gas stations. Toyota is more bullish about fuel-cell vehicles, which are expensive but can deliver the same cruise range as gas engines. Yamashige said there is no change to that overall company policy.

China astronauts return from monthlong space station stay

BEIJING (AP) — A pair of Chinese astronauts have returned from a monthlong stay in the country’s space station, China’s sixth and longest crewed mission to date. Veteran mission commander Jing Haipeng and first-time space traveller Chen Dong landed in their Shenzhou 11 return vehicle on the frozen steppes of Inner Mongolia. They spent 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2 station conducting experiments and testing equipment in preparation for the launch of the station’s core module in 2018. A fully functioning, permanently crewed space station is on course to begin operation six years from now and slated to run for a decade. The Tiangong 2 that launched on September 15 is orbiting 244 miles above the earth.

South Korea’s Park makes rare public appearance amid scandal

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president visited a rural market last month in her first public appearance out among her citizens since a huge political scandal exploded in October. Park Geun-hye’s visit to the market in the southeastern city of Daeju took place while her opponents squabbled over whether and when to impeach her after she made a conditional resignation offer. The visit was also made just before police detained a man suspected of setting fire to the birthplace of Park’s late dictator father in the nearby city of Gumi. Park Geun-hye’s office said she visited the market to review a recent fire, which destroyed hundreds of shops. Daegu is Park’s political home turf, where she was elected as a national lawmaker four times before becoming president in 2013.

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