Bitcoin is vulnerable to sabotage from the Chinese government because of its overwhelming exposure to the country, researchers have warned.

Beijing could render the Bitcoin network effectively useless by taking control of the powerful computers used to maintain the digital currency, which are largely based in China, according to a report from security companies Hacken and Gladius.

This is cryptocurrency explained in video

Bitcoin is seen by its supporters as free of government control, a feature that is highlighted as one of its key benefits.

The digital currency is maintained not by any central organisation but by a collection of “miners”, computers that are rewarded in new Bitcoins for updating the ledger of all transactions known as the blockchain.

As Bitcoin has grown, it has required more expensive and powerful computers, and meant mining has migrated to parts of the world where electricity is cheap, in particular China.

Some 77.7 per cent of the “hashpower” – the computing strength behind Bitcoin – is now based in China, according to the report, leaving the network vulnerable. The majority of the specialised hardware used to mine Bitcoin is also made in China.

“It is obvious what this country can do to the network. [It] is over-exposed to China and the government can sabotage it,” said Vladyslav Makarov, an author of the report.

Bitcoin transactions must be confirmed by a consensus of users, which protects the currency from cyber attacks.

However, if one party were to control more than half of its processing power, they would be able to manipulate Bitcoin in a way that renders it useless, the report says. Such a “censorship attack” would cause transactions to grind to a halt, be completed twice, or result in Bitcoins disappearing from wallets. These events could be launched by Beijing if it coerced enough miners in the country.

Beijing has already proven itself to be sceptical of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, prompting fears about financial stability and capital flight. This year China has already banned initial coin offerings, a form of crowdfunding that involves companies issuing cryptocurrency-like tokens, and has shut the online exchanges that allow people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

Neither act dampened appetite for Bitcoin, whose price rose to an all-time high near $US20,000 this month, before dropping back last week.

An attack on the network could have potentially devastating effects. Even if it does not completely freeze the network, it could cause a confidence crisis that leads to Bitcoin’s price collapsing.

It is obvious that a huge amount of hashpower concentration in a single jurisdiction is detrimental to the health of the Bitcoin ecosystem.

“It is obvious that a huge amount of hashpower concentration in a single jurisdiction is detrimental to the health of the Bitcoin ecosystem,” said Hacken’s Hennadiy Kornev.

Adam Anderson from Gladius said that the damage from such an attack could be limited by cloning, or “forking”, Bitcoin to create a version less vulnerable to Chinese influence.

“[However], I’m not sure faith in Bitcoin could be restored,” he said.

The Sunday Telegraph, London

The calls to the White House come at least once a week. “Murdoch here,” the blunt, accented voice on the other end of the line says.

For decades, Rupert Murdoch has used his media properties to establish a direct line to Australian and British leaders. But in the 44 years since he bought his first newspaper in the US, he has largely failed to cultivate close ties to an American president. Until now.

Murdoch and President Donald Trump – both forged in New York’s tabloid culture, one as the owner of The New York Post, the other as its perfect subject – have travelled in the same circles since the 1970s, but they did not become close until recently, when their interests began to align more than ever before.

Since Inauguration Day, Murdoch has talked regularly with Trump, often bypassing the White House chief of staff, General John F. Kelly, who screens incoming calls. Murdoch has felt comfortable enough to offer counsel that others may shy away from, such as urging the president to stop tweeting and advising him to improve his relationship with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Murdoch also has weekly conversations with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Before the news broke that Murdoch had agreed to sell vast parts of his 21st Century Fox to the Walt Disney Co. for US$52.4 billion ($67.8 billion), Trump called him to get his assurance that the Fox News Channel, the highly rated cable network and frequent bullhorn of the Trump agenda, would not be affected.

On December 14, the day the agreement was announced, Trump let the world know that he had made a congratulatory call to Murdoch. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, also passed along the president’s belief that the deal would be “a great thing” for jobs – a claim disputed by Wall Street analysts.

After decades of ups and downs, Trump now counts Murdoch as one of his closest confidants. The two titans made a show of their improved relationship in June 2016, when Murdoch visited Trump at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland before a group of reporters. They appeared together again at a black-tie dinner in May in honour of American and Australian veterans who fought side by side in World War II. Murdoch introduced the president as “my friend Donald J. Trump” before they engaged in a brief hug.

They are opposites in personal style, with Murdoch gruff and low-key, preferring schlubby newsrooms to Trump’s gilded towers and glitz. But they have much in common.

Both were born to wealth, but at a distance from the centres of power. Trump grew up in Jamaica, Queens, the son of a real estate developer content to earn his fortune in the boroughs outside Manhattan –  so close but so far from glittering Midtown, where the son would make his name and his home. Murdoch, the son of a journalist who became the owner of a newspaper chain, spent his childhood in Melbourne. Murdoch, 86, and Trump, 71, are also alike in that they were both sent to exclusive schools as boys before going on to outdo their fathers in the family businesses.

Although both men parlayed their inheritances into global power, they have stubbornly viewed themselves as outsiders at odds with the establishment. When Murdoch entered the British newspaper market in 1968, London society shunned him and his vulgar tabloids, The Sun and The News of the World, which he used to wound his enemies and advance his political interests. Trump withstood a similar wariness among the elite after he made himself a Manhattan player through his brazen deal making and hucksterism.

To make their way upward in New York, both men relied on a powerful friend, lawyer Roy M. Cohn, a ruthless fixer who made his name in the 1950s as the chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy, the Red-baiting senator, before representing some of the city’s most powerful figures, including the mobster John Gotti and the New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Cohn connected Trump to Murdoch and the tabloid he bought in 1976, The New York Post. The upstart developer saw that he could benefit from the brash daily – especially its Page Six gossip column, which started a year after Murdoch became the paper’s owner.

“Trump was interested in specifically Rupert’s ownership of The Post, because Page Six is very important to his rising stature in New York City and branding efforts,” said Roger Stone, a Republican operative who has known both men for decades.

Trump seemed to revel in the tabloid’s saucy coverage of his personal life. In 1989 and 1990, The Post turned out a series of front pages on Trump’s split from his first wife, Ivana Trump, and his affair with Marla Maples. The stream of headlines in bold block letters culminated in a quote attributed to Maples: “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had.”

Trump’s enthusiastic response to the planned Disney-Fox megadeal may have been lost in the swirl of Washington news had it not been for his vehement opposition to another recent attempt at media consolidation – AT&T’s proposed US$85.4 billion ($110 billion) acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, a frequent target of the president’s “fake news” complaints. While so far making no move on the Disney-Fox plan, the Justice Department has sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal on antitrust grounds in a rare instance of governmental interference in a merger of two companies that do not directly compete with each other.

Murdoch, whose ideology is more malleable than his critics realise, has long gained from his knack for placing himself close to power. In the 1980s, when he was cosy with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, his London tabloids took a pro-Tory stance. In 1997, his newspapers endorsed the Labor Party leader Tony Blair for prime minister.


Lance Price, a former Blair spokesman, referred to Murdoch as “effectively a member of Blair’s Cabinet.” In turn, Murdoch faced little government scrutiny as he expanded his media empire to reach 40 percent of British newspaper readers and millions of television viewers through his stake in Sky, a pay TV service. But after a 2011 phone hacking scandal at the now-shuttered News of the World put a spotlight on his remarkable political influence, he found himself facing regulatory hurdles, and his $15 billion bid for a 61 percent stake of Sky came to nothing.

Even as Murdoch enjoyed an open invitation to 10 Downing Street, he found that his overtures to U.S. presidents mostly fell short. And before making their alliance, Murdoch and Trump had to put their old spats behind them.

Before the recent rapprochement, Murdoch privately called Trump “phony,” and accused him of exaggerating his net worth. For his part, Trump once threatened to sue Murdoch for libel after The Post reported that the storied Maidstone Club in East Hampton, New York, had denied him membership.

During much of the 2016 presidential campaign, Murdoch – who initially swooned over Jeb Bush – stood against Trump, declaring on Twitter that he was “embarrassing his friends” and “the whole country.” The Wall Street Journal, Murdoch’s crown jewel, ran an editorial calling the candidate a “catastrophe”.The Post led with the headline “Don Voyage” and declared, “Trump is toast”.

Trump shot back on Twitter: “Wow, I have always liked the @nypost but they have really lied when they covered me in Iowa.” He also went after the Journal: “Look how small the pages have become @WSJ,” he wrote. “Looks like a tabloid ??? saving money I assume!”

The Post ended up endorsing Trump, with reservations, in the New York primary, but refrained from endorsing either him or Hillary Clinton in the general election.

More recently, Murdoch expressed exasperation with Trump’s immigration policies. In response to the White House ban on travel of people from majority-Muslim nations, his company, 21st Century Fox, released a memo offering assistance to any employees hurt by the executive order and reminding them that “21CF is a global company, proudly headquartered in the U.S., founded by – and comprising at all levels of the business – immigrants.” In August, James Murdoch, the younger son of Murdoch and the chief executive of 21st Century Fox, condemned the president’s response to the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The man partly responsible for the detente was another moneyed outsider who craved status and respect: Jared Kushner.

When Kushner bought The New York Observer in 2006, he wasted little time reaching out to Murdoch. “He wanted to be Murdoch,” said one person close to both men at the time. In early 2016, after a presidential debate during which Trump faced aggressive questioning from Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News anchor, the candidate sent Kushner to Murdoch on a media diplomacy mission.

Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, is close friends with Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi Deng. Murdoch and Deng attended the Kushner-Trump wedding in 2009 at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and the Murdoch daughters, Grace and Chloe, served as flower girls.

Before Murdoch and Deng divorced in 2013, Kushner and Ivanka Trump vacationed on Rosehearty, Murdoch’s 184-foot sailing yacht. In a further sign of the two families’ closeness, Ivanka Trump took on the job of Murdoch trustee responsible for overseeing the two girls’ $300 million fortune – a role she gave up a month before her father took office.

In June 2016, when Donald Trump appeared to be the inevitable Republican nominee, Murdoch made the visit to Trump International Golf Links Scotland. Completed in 2012 over the objections of nearby residents, the course lies 35 miles from the herring-fishing port of Rosehearty, the town left behind by the Murdoch clan when it emigrated to Australia in 1884.

Murdoch arrived with former model Jerry Hall, his fourth wife, whom he married in March. Under cloudy skies, the newlyweds toured the property in a golf cart large enough for four. Trump was at the wheel, with Hall seated beside him. Murdoch, wearing sunglasses, sat on a backward-facing rumble seat as they made their way to the Trump-refurbished Macleod House, a 15th-century mansion, where they had dinner.

Trump’s mended relationship with Murdoch has not gone unnoticed by Time Warner executives, who wonder why AT&T’s attempt to buy the company has run into regulatory trouble at a time when the president has smiled on the Disney-Fox deal.

“If you look at the facts of our case, even before you heard the administration’s endorsement of the Disney-Fox deal, it was hard to understand how the Justice Department could reach a decision to block our deal,” Jeffrey L. Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner, said.

A spokesman for the White House, Raj Shah, said that Trump hadn’t spoken to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the AT&T-Time Warner deal and that “no White House official was authorised to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter.”

The way CNN’s parent company views it, Fox News has adopted a role similar to the one played by Murdoch’s British tabloids when they helped advance the agendas of British leaders. As Blair learned, however, even a special relationship with the media baron can sour quickly. He and Murdoch – once so close that Blair was the godfather to Grace Murdoch – are no longer on speaking terms.

During the British government’s 2012 inquiry into the mogul’s political influence, the former prime minister described what it was like when a story subject falls out of favor with a Murdoch-controlled tabloid.

“Once they’re against you, that’s it,” Blair said. “It’s full on, full frontal, day in, day out, basically a lifetime commitment.”

Henry Sapiecha


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People are also impressed by Azrael’s sense of humor. He mocks ISIS frequently. In one video, he even pokes fun at the group by using one of its walkie-talkies. In some ways, he is becoming a caricature of himself. Azrael has even been made into a cartoon showing him attacking a member of ISIS. But questions persist: do we know the real Azrael?

The real Azrael was born as Ayoub Faleh Al-Rabieia, according to news channel France 24. His age is unknown, although reports suggest he is between 37 and 40 years old. France 24 says he was known for studying athletics before going on to become a university lecturer. Azrael is known to have five children. He is also reportedly a Taekwondo master.

Azrael became a militant later on, but the impetus for these events is a mystery. France 24 said Azrael was originally fighting against America when they invaded Iraq. He may have even been on America’s list of terrorists. But nowadays, things are much different. The U.S. supports Azrael’s group in its war against ISIS.

In fact, the Iraqi public seems to believe in Azrael. His face adorns t-shirts sold in many markets of Baghdad. His actions have inspired hope in many people who have felt marginalized and frightened by the brutal conflict that has engulfed their country. They need his leadership more than ever before.

The militia has categorically denied that they shared images of decapitated fighters. Azrael told France 24 that he was a man of his word.  “I stand by my words. That’s why people prefer me instead of having a dishonest political who announces measures on TV but does nothing.”

Azrael does have his detractors. Some people believe that his militia have glamorized the violence of war by publishing the videos. Like other militias in the region, Amnesty International has accused the Imam Ali brigade of war crimes. They say Azrael’s groups are killing and displacing many Iraqis. And some people say they have circulated videos showing images like decapitated heads of ISIS members.

Sometimes Azrael even uploads videos to YouTube while engaged in battle, in order to dispute the claims of ISIS. Azrael says he has around 220,000 Facebook followers, a number that continues to grow. He is a force to be reckoned with.

Like others who have learned to leverage social media, Azrael has been able to get a remarkable number of views on his  videos. One of his first videos has already amassed two billion views.

Azrael seems to be a well organized machine, using two smartphones to record his attacks on ISIS and then post them to the internet, where they are shared on social media. Azrael and his cohorts are well built and strong, and they carry weapons like guns, grenades and smoke bombs.

The Imam Ali brigade have been important players in the battle against ISIS in Iraq. They were part of the forces which recaptured the Iraqi city Tikrit, which had fallen into terrorist hands. Azrael was captured on video firing a huge machine gun at ISIS in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was liberated from ISIS in June of 2016.

Azrael may have taken up arms after a call to action by the Ayatollah Sistani, a Shiite leader, who wanted me n to battle ISIS. Azrael was initiated and set up his own group, the Imam Ali brigade, which by most accounts he leads.

Henry Sapiecha

Lucy Ogden-Doyle was only 14 when she learnt she may develop fertility problems. It was distressing news for someone who went to see her GP about irregular periods.

Her doctor said she might have a hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and she should drop five kilograms – despite then being 52 kilograms and 172 centimetres tall – to “pre-empt” weight gain, a symptom.

“It was quite a dramatic thing to tell someone so young that they may be infertile and to lose weight, which would have made me underweight,” Ms Ogden-Doyle, now 24, said.

“Two years later I had tests and I do have PCOS but I’m not showing the symptoms like excess hair or extra weight so, while it has been a negative experience, right now I’m not letting it affect me.”

The arts student is among one in five women diagnosed with PCOS, a deeply stigmatising condition. The figure is based on eight separate studies across six countries including Australia and China.

PCOS, which occurs when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal, is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder in reproductive aged women.

In an opinion article in the latest British Medical Journal, Australian researchers argue that an expanded definition had inadvertently led to overdiagnosis, and therefore too much treatment and even harm.

The widening of the definition (to include the sonographic presence of polycystic ovaries) in 2003 led to a dramatic increase in cases, from 5 to 21 per cent.

Lucy Ogden-Doyle has polycystic ovary syndrome. The definition of the term is problematic

Lead author Tessa Copp, a PhD student at Sydney University, said many women were being “given a lifelong disease label” in their teenage years when symptoms such as acne and irregular periods overlapped with signs of puberty.

She referred to three studies that found the prevalence of PCOS by age decreased rapidly after 25, suggesting the symptoms may be transitory for some women.

“A lot of my friends had it and were feeling quite dissatisfied because there’s no cure, nothing you can do, except to undergo treatments that focus on alleviating symptoms,” she said.

“Some cases are severe and they will benefit from the label, but women with milder symptoms may experience harm from the overdiagnosis and overtreatment.”

The authors said women diagnosed with PCOS had higher levels of depression, anxiety, poorer self-esteem, negative body image, disordered eating and decreased sexual satisfaction.

They said it was unclear whether these impacts were due to the condition, its symptoms, or from the psychological effect of being labelled a PCOS sufferer.

“It’s associated with infertility, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, so it labels women as abnormal but the consequences are not the same for everyone,” Ms Copp said.

The authors argue that, given the uncertainties, the risk of psychological harm and the impacts of applying a one-size-fits-all diagnostic criteria to a wide-ranging set of symptoms, it was important for doctors not to rush diagnosing women.

“We need better understanding and research to characterise the benefits and harms of diagnosis and treatment for women with both severe and milder symptoms,” Ms Copp said.

“Instead of diagnosing women in adolescence, note they’re at risk, follow up with them over time and use treatments that target the symptoms.”

Call to action

The article comes as influential health groups, including the Consumers Health Forum and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, launch a call to action to address overdiagnosis in general and “the problem of too much medicine”.

In an initial statement via a Wiser Healthcare collaboration, they said there was an urgent need to develop a national action plan.

“Expanding disease definitions and lowering diagnostic thresholds are recognised as one driver of the problem, and the processes for changing definitions require meaningful reform,” it said.

Dr Ray Moynihan, from Bond University and a Wiser Healthcare member, said the problem of too much medicine was driven by many factors, including the best of intentions.

“PCOS appears to be a strong example of the problem of expanding disease definitions or lowering diagnostic thresholds that are potentially labelling too many people,” he said.

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure and poorer psychological wellbeing.

Wondering where the highest paid people in tech go to college? There’s a good chance it’s one of these 10 universities according to a new study.

Graduation Internet Training Education Learning Computer Diploma

A new study from job site Paysa has ranked colleges around the world based on the salaries of their graduates in tech fields.

That six of the 10 schools are located in the United States is unsurprising. What is surprising, however, is which schools make the cut and which don’t—and their geographic locale inside the country.

The study doesn’t take university size into account—only average salary of graduates. That may be a factor for why some of the top of the list aren’t the largest universities, but it doesn’t explain a stranger statistic: The top five are all in the greater Seattle area or just across the bridge in Vancouver.

SEE: 10 bucks to snag an interview for your dream job? AI wants to help new college grads (TechRepublic)

Geographical oddities aside, here are the top 10 colleges with the highest earning graduates in tech.

The top 10 highest paid alumni bodies

Graduation Internet Training Education Learning Computer Diploma

1. Seattle University

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $265,869

2. Pacific Lutheran University

  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $265,153

3. Simon Fraser University

  • Location: Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $263,574

4. City University of Seattle

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $263,386

5. Central Washington University

  • Location: Ellensburg, WA
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $254,778

6. Tsinghua University

  • Location: Beijing, China
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $254,710

7. Harvard University

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $253,970

8. Lomonosov Moscow State University

  • Location: Moscow, Russia
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,874

9. University of Cambridge

  • Location: Cambridge, UK
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,645

10. University of Toronto

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,639

SEE: The Ultimate Learn to Code 2017 Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

To see the full study, including infographics on cost vs. value, college representation at large tech firms, and statistics on women in tech, read the full study available on Paysa’s website.

Henry Sapiecha

Is this the end for ‘Do Not Track’, the web-tracking privacy service?

The most shocking internet privacy laws.

Twitter was one of the first companies to support Do Not Track (DNT), the website privacy policy. Now, Twitter is abandoning DNT and its mission to protect people from being tracked as they wander over the web.

DNT seemed like a good idea. By setting DNT on in your web browser, websites that supported DNT could neither place nor read advertising cookies on your device. Well, that was the idea anyway.

Any web browser or application that supported DNT added a small snippet of code to its request for a web page: DNT=1. This meant websites and services that observed DNT shouldn’t track you on the internet.

This would protect your online privacy. You might think that meant “Don’t collect and store any information about me without my explicit permission.”


From day one in 2012, that isn’t how it worked. According to Sarah Downey, an attorney and privacy advocate, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which represent most online advertisers, have their own interpretation of Do Not Track: “They have said they will stop serving targeted ads but will still collect and store and monetize data.”

However, Twitter played fair by the spirit of DNT rather than the law. Unfortunately, they were one of the few companies that did. DAA, for example, publicly abandoned DNT in 2013. With the advertisers and privacy advocates unable to agree on basic principles, DNT increasingly offered users no privacy protection worth the name.

Henry Sapiecha

Henry Sapiecha

I am currently having an issue with accessing the admin section to my stable of sites. I am waiting for my webmaster to respond to my requests for attention to the issues so my apologies to you all for the inconvenience.

Once he gets back to me with a solution we are back in business.

In the meantime please enjoy the journey below until I am back on track.



Henry Sapiecha


Henry Sapiecha

AS A NEWLYWED in the 1980s, a Japanese martial arts master named Ichiro expected only good things.

He and his wife, Tomoko, lived among the cherry blossoms in Saitima, a prosperous city just outside of Tokyo. The couple had their first child, a boy named Tim. They owned their house, and took out a loan to open a dumpling restaurant.

Then the market crashed. Suddenly, Ichiro and Tomoko were deeply in debt. So they did what hundreds of thousands of Japanese have done in similar circumstances: They sold their house, packed up their family, and disappeared. For good.

“People are cowards,” Ichiro says today. “They all want to throw in the towel one day, to disappear and reappear somewhere nobody knows them. I never envisioned running away to be an end in itself … You know, a disappearance is something you can never shake. Fleeing is a fast track toward death.”

The New York Post reports, of the many oddities that are culturally specific to Japan — from cat cafes to graveyard eviction notices to the infamous Suicide Forest, where an estimated 100 people per year take their own lives — perhaps none is as little known, and curious, as “the evaporated people.”

Since the mid-1990s, it’s estimated that at least 100,000 Japanese men and women vanish annually. They are the architects of their own disappearances, banishing themselves over indignities large and small: divorce, debt, job loss, failing an exam.

“The Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan in Stories and Photographs” (Skyhorse) is the first known, in-depth reportage of this phenomenon. French journalist Léna Mauger learned of it in 2008, and spent the next five years reporting a story she and collaborator Stéphane Remael couldn’t believe.

“It’s so taboo,” Mauger tells The Post. “It’s something you can’t really talk about. But people can disappear because there’s another society underneath Japan’s society. When people disappear, they know they can find a way to survive.”

These lost souls, it turns out, live in lost cities of their own making.

The slums in Sanya. Picture: Zanpei

The city of Sanya, as Mauger writes, isn’t located on any map. Technically, it doesn’t even exist. It’s a slum within Tokyo, one whose name has been erased by authorities. What work can be found here is run by the yakuza — the Japanese mafia — or employers looking for cheap, off-the-books labour. The evaporated live in tiny, squalid hotel rooms, often without internet or private toilets. Talking in most hotels is forbidden after 6pm.

Here, Mauger met a man named Norihiro. Now 50, he disappeared himself 10 years ago. He’d been cheating on his wife, but his true disgrace was losing his job as an engineer.

Too ashamed to tell his family, Norihiro initially kept up appearances: he’d get up early each weekday, put on his suit and tie, grab his briefcase and kiss his wife goodbye. Then he’d drive to his former office building and spend the entire workday sitting in his car — not eating, not calling anyone.

Norihiro did this for one week. The fear that his true situation would be discovered was unbearable.

“I couldn’t do it anymore,” he tells Mauger. “After 19 hours I was still waiting, because I used to go out for drinks with my bosses and colleagues. I would roam around, and when I finally returned home, I got the impression my wife and son had doubts. I felt guilty. I didn’t have a salary to give them anymore.”

On what would have been his payday, Norihiro groomed himself immaculately, and got on his usual train line — in the other direction, right toward Sanya. He left no word, no note, and for all his family knows, he wandered into Suicide Forest and killed himself.

Today, he lives under an assumed name, in a windowless room he secures with a padlock. He drinks and smokes too much, and has resolved to live out the rest of his days practising this most masochistic form of penance.

“After all this time,” Norihiro says, “I could certainly take back my old identity … But I don’t want my family to see me in this state. Look at me. I look like nothing. I am nothing. If I die tomorrow, I don’t want anyone to be able to recognise me.”

Yuichi is a former construction worker who vanished in the mid-1990s. He’d been taking care of his sick mother, and the expenses involved — home health care, food, rent — bankrupted him.

“I couldn’t handle failing my mother,” he says. “She had given me everything, but I was incapable of taking care of her.”

What Yuichi did next may seem paradoxical, perverse even — but in Japanese culture, in which suicide is considered the most dignified way to erase the shame one has visited upon their family, it makes sense. He brought his mother to a cheap hotel, rented her a room, and left her there, never to return.

He disappeared to Sanya.

An alley in the slums known as Sanya in Tokyo. Picture: Google Maps

Here, Yuichi says, “You see people in the street, but they have already ceased to exist. When we fled from society, we disappeared the first time. Here, we are killing ourselves slowly.”

“Evaporations” have surged in Japan at key points: the aftermath of World War II, when national shame was at its apex, and in the aftermath of the financial crises of 1989 and 2008.

A shadow economy has emerged to service those who want never to be found — who want to make their disappearances look like abductions, their homes look like they’ve been robbed, no paper trail or financial transactions to track them down.

Night-time Movers was one such company, started by a man named Shou Hatori. He’d run a legitimate moving service until one night, in a karaoke bar, a woman asked if Hatori could arrange for her to “disappear, along with her furniture. She said she could not stand her husband’s debts, which were ruining her life.”

Hatori charged $3,400 per midnight move. His clientele was vast: from housewives who’d shopped their families into debt to women whose husbands had left them to university students who were sick of doing chores in their dorms.

He refused to give specifics to the authors, but he eventually quit; as a child, Hatori himself had disappeared with his parents from Kyoto, after they found themselves in debt. He believes that his former line of work was a kindness.

“People often associate [this] with cowardice,” he says. “But while doing this work, I came to understand it as a beneficial move.”

Hatori wound up serving as a consultant for a Japanese TV show about the phenomenon. “Flight by Night” was a hit in the late 1990s, a fictionalised anthology series based on true vanishings. A company based on Hatori’s, called Rising Sun, was integral to the show’s plot, summarised online:

“Need help managing your finances? Up to your ears in debt? Rising Sun is the consulting firm you need on your side. Too late for stopgap measures? Is running away or suicide the only way out? Turn once again to Rising Sun. By day, Genji Masahiko runs a reputable consulting firm, but by night, they help the desperate find a new life.”

A street in Kabukicho. Picture: Google Maps

Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

The organisation is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin travelling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

“Most of the investigations end part way through,” says Sakae Furuuchi, a detective who serves as the group’s director. He cites the prohibitive cost of hiring private detectives: $500 a day, up to $15,000 a month — impossible for those whose loved one has fled due to debt.

“The people who flee debt and violence change their names and sometimes their appearances,” Sakae says. “The others aren’t thinking people will try to find them.”

Sakae was able to find one young man who disappeared at age 20. He hadn’t come home after taking an exam, and by chance, one of his friends spotted him in southern Tokyo. Sakae wandered the streets until finding the student, who was, Mauger writes, “shaking from shame … He had not taken the exam for fear of failing it and disappointing his family. Tempted by suicide, he had not found a way to take his life.”

Another case, unresolved, involved the young mother of a disabled 8-year-old boy. On the day of her son’s school musical, in which he was performing, the mother disappeared — despite promising the boy she’d be sitting in the front row.

Her seat remained empty. She was never seen again. Her husband and child agonise; the woman had never given any indication she was unhappy, in pain, or had done something she thought wrong.

Sakae remains hopeful.

“She’s a mother,” he tells Mauger. “Maybe her path will lead her back to her loved ones.”

The sheer cliff of Tojinbo, one of the most known suicide spots in Japan. Picture: AFP/Harumi Ozawa

In many ways, Japan is a culture of loss. According to a 2014 report by the World Health Organisation, Japan’s suicide rate is 60 per cent higher than the global average. There are between 60 and 90 suicides per day. It’s a centuries-old concept dating back to the Samurai, who committed seppuku — suicide by ritual disembowelment — and one as recent as the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II.

Japanese culture also emphasises uniformity, the importance of the group over the individual. “You must hit the nail that stands out” is a Japanese maxim, and for those who can’t, or won’t, fit into society, adhere to its strict cultural norms and near-religious devotion to work, to vanish is to find freedom of a sort.

For younger Japanese, those who want to live differently but don’t want to completely cut ties with family and friends, there’s a compromise: the life of the otakus, who live parallel lives as their favourite anime characters, disappearing from time to time into alternate realities where, in costume, they find themselves.

“Running away is not always about leaving,” a young man named Matt told Mauger. “We dream of love and freedom, and sometimes we make do with a little — a costume, a song, a dance with our hands. In Japan, that is already a lot.”

This story originally appeared on the New York Post and was republished with permission

Originally published as Japan’s mysterious ‘evaporating people’

Henry Sapiecha

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