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Japan

Tsunamis, Meltdowns And Japan's Disaster Movie Obsession

Japanese fascination for epic disasters – both natural and man-made – has long been expressed in film, as a way to exorcize very real dangers. And when the movie comes to life?

Godzilla, an atomic-fueled lizard, came to Japanese screens soon after Hiroshima.
Godzilla, an atomic-fueled lizard, came to Japanese screens soon after Hiroshima.
Thomas Sotinel

Hayao Miyazaki, the acclaimed Japanese director of Spirited Away, chose the 2008 Venice Film Festival to present his 10th feature film, called Ponyo. The Italian "lagoon city" helped Miyazaki explain why his movie ended with a ravaging tsunami -- and why the Japanese so often celebrate nature in spite of its destructive power.

"It doesn't do anyone any good to depict natural disasters as malicious events. They are just part of the world we live in," Miyazaki said. "Every time I come to Venice, a city that is slowly being engulfed by the sea, I am always impressed to see that people here continue to enjoy life as if nothing happened. The inevitable destruction of Venice is part of these people's lives, and the same thing happens in Japan, with its earthquakes and typhoons. The people there have a very different perception of natural disasters."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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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.

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