Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Olympics aren't just about building new stadiums and getting athletes to the track: the government also has to be ready to cope with the possibility of a major earthquake. That’s where the Technical Emergency Control Force – or TEC-Force – comes in. Under recent plans drawn up by the government, nearly 2,000 of the 8,900-strong force could converge on the capital within a day, bringing trucks, helicopters and boats. It would mainly support emergency-service first-responders by alleviating flooding, building temporary bridges, setting up satellite-based communications centres, assessing damaged roads and ordering humanitarian aid; in the past decade it has been called on 69 times for quakes, flooding and landslides. Its dispatches would also come in handy for both residents and visitors: anyone with the smartphone app will be able to get updates in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
“It is better not to govern at all than to govern wrong.” With these words, Christian Lindner pulled out of coalition talks in Germany and cast into doubt whether chancellor Angela Merkel will be able to form a functioning government. But what was behind the decision by the leader of the business-friendly Free Democratic party (FDP)? A spokesman for Merkel’s Christian Democrats has speculated that Lindner never planned to join the coalition; more likely is the theory that he felt he would lose support and momentum if he made too many concessions. It’s a gamble: if Merkel finds a way to form a government then the FDP have missed a chance to be at the top table; if she doesn’t and Germany heads back to the polls, the FDP could gain more seats.
Libraries are rushing to keep up with the digital age. The New York Public Library’s main beaux arts building on Fifth Avenue is getting a redesign care of Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo, complete with a new learning centre, enlarged exhibition space and more research room. Qatar has also just completed its National Library, housed in a Rem Koolhaas-designed building that includes computer labs and stations offering 3D-printing tools. Libraries are right to adapt but they shouldn’t neglect their main function as a repository of physical books. The Tianjin Binhai Library in China, for instance, has printed fake books to put on its shiny shelves – a bizarre attempt to compensate for a lack of the real thing.
Kinder Eggs are available in 170 countries, making them one of the more readily available confections in the world, but they have never been sold in the US. The small plastic toy found inside the chocolate shell has made the treats illegal there due to a 1938 law that prohibits any non-edible objects in sweets. To get around that problem, Kinder’s parent company Ferrero has tweaked the design slightly, making a US-specific egg (a ridge of plastic is visible through the chocolate) that will be released this week on Black Friday. Fans have apparently been smuggling them into the US for years so an official release is sure to be a boon to Ferrero.
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