Media Works, the film production company founded by Hoyu Yamamoto, specializes in producing Yakuza movies, almost all of which are based on true events. They produce dozens of movies a year, making up 80 percent of all Yakuza films put out each year. Unfortunately for them, gang expulsion laws were passed two years ago in an effort to prevent Japanese entities from working with the Yakuza.

Russian authorities have intensified blatant harassment and intimidation of environmental and civic activists in the final weeks before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Since late December, police have interfered with peaceful one-person pickets, detained and jailed protestors, and called and visited several activists and a lawyer at their homes.

What’s a U.S. ambassador to do when he wants to get his message out in a country that enjoys making America look bad, has little patience for Western values and tightly controls the media? Call him @McFaul, the tweeting ambassador. For Ambassador Michael McFaul, the unfiltered communication offered by social media means he can tweet U.S. policy, blog it and post it on Facebook, an alternative to the mostly hostile traditional media here.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s latest attempt to cultivate his image as a man of the people is creating some unintended consequences. Qingfeng Restaurant, an unassuming local eatery where Xi ate a meal of pork buns, fried pig liver and vegetables last month, has since become a staging ground for residents to protest against their local governments.

If you've done much Web surfing today you've probably come across a headline such as this one from NBC News: "Kim Jong Un's executed uncle was eaten alive by 120 hungry dogs: report." We'll get to the reasons to be suspicious in a bit.

Iran is a country of many contradictions. You have have heard that before. Unrelated men and women aren't allowed to mingle freely, yet they find a way to do so. Women are required to cover their hair, but many cover it in a way that becomes a fashion statement. There are many others. Here's another contradiction: Iranian officials — including the President Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Javad Zarif — are frequent users of social media. Yet Iranian citizens are officially banned from signing up.

Egypt’s government has arrested four journalists working for Al Jazeera English in Cairo. Police took Peter Greste, a correspondent from Australia, Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who has Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, and producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, both Egyptian, into custody on Sunday. Egyptian police accused the men of “broadcasting news that threatens internal security and spreading false news.”

December 24, 2013

The two remaining imprisoned Pussy Riot members were released from prison Monday under Russia’s new amnesty law. The pair slammed the move, and accused President Vladimir Putin of freeing them as a public relations effort meant to smooth out international human rights criticisms ahead of the winter Olympics.