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OpenLearn Live: 12th August 2015

Updated Wednesday 12th August 2015

The only Japanese winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, so far - and more free learning from across the day.

This page will be updated during the course of the day - and check our Twitter feed at @OpenLearnLive.

Yesterday, we met a Japanese Nobel literature laureate; caught up with Chinese School and unpicked the Google/Alphabet split.

See the full list of OpenLearn Live


Today's Posts


Yuan down: Why has China devalued its currency?

At The Conversation, Nafis Alam explains why China has reduced the value of its currency on the global markets:

The abrupt devaluation is a clear indication of mounting concern in Beijing that the country could fall short of its goal of roughly 7% economic growth for 2015. In the past few months, dwindling growth has put heavy pressure on state-owned banks to lend money readily to companies willing to invest in new factories and equipment. A rout of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets in late June and early July (which took aggressive government action to stem) appears to have further dented consumer demand within China and investor confidence across the globe.

Read Why is China devaluing its currency

Read China in Africa


Were the Development Goals on target?

As the Millennium Development Goals reach their end-of-aim targets, how well did the world do at achieving them? Regular OpenLearn contributor Yoseph Araya considers.

Some of the points raised are: on the limitations of focus of previous goals e.g. deciding whether it is climate change adaptation and or mitigation required; presence of entangled goals e.g. agriculture/food production was embedded under poverty reduction; data-limited estimations which were not always accurate e.g. on poverty assessment indices; presence of unassessed aspects of health e.g. non-communicable diseases and mental health; lack of integration/synergy of goals with other development activities e.g. on education, health and gender.

Read Goal setting for a better world


Heath/Nixon

New to the site - an annotated guide to a meeting between Richard Nixon, Edward Heath and Henry Kissinger in 1971. Discover why the Americans were keen for the UK to join what would become the European Union, and why the two allies took differing approaches to the question of recognising Bangladesh's independence.

Read: When Heath met Nixon


Saving Britain's butterflies

Writing for The Conversation, Callum McGregor proposes three steps to save Britain's butterflies:

Species can be helped by choosing garden flowers with care, or letting them choose themselves. “Large and small white will breed on Nasturtiums and love to nectar on flowers like buddleia and perennial wallflower,” advises Fox, while “green-veined white caterpillars can feed on lots of weeds, so not being too tidy can help”. If you have a garden, why not plant some butterfly-friendly plants of your own?

So while butterfly lovers will be among those waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the Paris summit, they may also be able to help closer to home. Habitat availability will be vital to the survival of butterflies when drought strikes, and by providing such refuges in back gardens anybody can help them survive and flourish.

Read: does cutting the wings of butterflies stop them from being able to fly?


BBC Four, tonight, 9pm - Genius of the Ancient World

In the second episode of Bettany Hughes' tour of ancient thinkers, the focus falls on Socrates:

Read more about the episode

Try our free course section on Plato and Socrates


Japanese Nobel Laureates: Eisaku Sato

Today, perhaps the most controversial of the Japanese Nobel Laureates we're going to feature this week: Eisaku Sato, 佐藤 榮作. He remains the only Japanese person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize; some believe he should never have been offered the award.

Eisaku Sato in 1963 Creative commons image Icon Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license

Sato was the first Japanese Prime Minister to have been born in the 20th Cenutry; he was leader between 1964 & 1972. When he came to power, part of the country was still occupied by American forces as part of the Second World War settlement; he negotiated with Richard Nixon to have the US to withdraw and dismantle the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, which governed Okinawa and neighbouring islands. The area under American control was, at the time, firmly under US control - the Dollar was the currency; it was illegal to fly the flag of any state except that of the US; cars drove on the right, rather than the left as in the rest of Japan.

The withdrawal of the American government wasn't uncontroversial, however - as part of the deal, the Americans were allowed to maintain a base in Okinawa and, effectively, continued to hold around a fifth of the land. The presence of the US military in Okinawa remains a cause of protest in Japan today.

When the Americans left (or "left"), they also took with them their nuclear capability, which was a final step in the journey which would take Sato to the Nobel Prize. In 1970, he has signed the nuclear arms non-proliferation treaty. This treaty accepted the status quo - that there were five nuclear states (at the time) - and signatories pledged that their nation would not join them; would work to disarm; and would only use nuclear technology for peaceful measures.

As Prime Minister of the only nation against whom nuclear weapons had been used, Sato's signature was important - but some critics suggest that it might not have been significant enough to justify winning the Nobel Prize. Japan was the 92nd nation to sign up to the treaty - four years after it had first been open for signing, so it was hard to see the prime minister as a prime mover. Leftist critics in Japan were amazed at what they saw as a peace prize for an agressive politician - artist Fujia Akatsuka had one of his characters say "since Eisaku Sato won the Nobel Peace Prize, I’ve been unable to believe in anything at all."; the Tokyo press offered the Nobel Committee a black humour award. Perhaps the most damning verdict comes from Nobel commentator Irwin Abrams:

Does a prize not reward a statesman for what in his office he should be doing anyway, keeping the peace?

The Nobel Committee explained their decision like this:

The reasons the Nobel Committee gave for awarding the Peace Prize to Eisaku Sato were that as Japanese Prime Minister he represented the will for peace of the Japanese people, and that he had signed the nuclear arms Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970. In the Committee's opinion, the award to Sato would encourage all those who were working to halt the spread of nuclear arms.

So the award was as much about reflecting the nature of the Japanese people as Sato himself - in fact, the prize was as much for the critics of Sato as for Sato himself.

Eisaku Sato shared the 1974 peace prize with Sean MacBride, the then Chairman of the International Peace Bureau and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. Sato died the following year.

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Official page of the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize

 

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