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Japan

Japan's Once Influential Yakuza Mobsters Lose Their Grip

In Japan, the yakuza traditionally controlled vice businesses and demanded shakedowns. But as their dwindling numbers are hunted down by the authorities, the mobsters are trying to reinvent themselves to survive.

 A member of the Yakuza shows off his tattoos during the Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo, 2014.
A member of the Yakuza shows off his tattoos during the Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo, 2014.
Yann Rousseau

TOKYO — The building is brown and narrow. The old, worn blinds are closed. This is the Roppongi neighborhood in the heart of Tokyo, just opposite the prestigious Ritz-Carlton. At exactly 10 a.m., three men, all in their forties and wearing stylish grey suits, welcome a passenger in a black sedan. They bow curtly. He is probably a "kobun," one of the godfather's partners. He is escorted under umbrellas inside the six-story building, where Japan's third-largest yakuza organization, the Inagawa-kai, has been established since 1972.

The headquarters address appears on the calling cards of the 3,300 members of the organization, which police officers have been visiting more often. Even American legal authorities have been redirecting their decisions to freeze assets of senior members of the organization toward this building. In 2009, a plan to move the offices to another neighborhood caused outcry from residents of the selected site. The organization gave up.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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