From Toledo to the Far East: Up and Downside of Chinese Innovation

Shenzhen, China (WTOL) - Shenzhen is known as the Silicon Valley of China. And the communist government is banking technology will be the key to China's global and economic development and dominance.

The Chinese government gives businesses incentives such as tax breaks for tech companies, encouraging them to be environmentally sustainable.

This focus and support allows for inventions to take off at offices, co-working spaces and business parks.

Entrepreneurs are developing drones controlled by a user's thoughts or a “smart” door lock that opens only with fingerprint biometric identification technology.

But there are significant problems in the development of these technologies including Chinese industrial spying. This results in the theft of intellectual property from American companies that critics say total billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Chinese companies are imitating concepts drawn up by successful U.S. tech companies. For example, Didi is a ride sharing company similar to Uber in the U.S. However unlike Uber, Didi allows users to check taxi and bus schedules as well as look up bike sharing locations.

Similar to the USSR in the latter half of the 20th century, communist China is America's foremost competitor economically in the 21st century. However, unlike the USSR, they are unapologetically following an American model to compete with the US.

From Toledo to the Far East: A Small Business Overcomes Big Challenges

Tokyo, Japan (WTOL) -The Daiya Seiki Company in Tokyo manufactures precision gauges for Nissan vehicles with micro detailing only workers’ hands can achieve.

Yet the small business faces big challenges, including more expensive raw materials and declining car sales.

The most significant hurdle has to do with the workforce.

Japan is struggling with a decline in the population due to workers aging and low fertility rates.

These factors have squeezed small businesses, resulting in 100,000 small companies closing since 2000.

To combat the business pressures, Daiya Seiki is focusing on its workforce of just 34 and experimenting with new ways to keep them.

Young workers, for example, receive constant and intensive training from older workers who act like mentors and coaches.

And the veterans, including Daiya Seiki’s most senior employee at 72, aren’t forced to retire at the mandatory retirement age of 60.

That’s because his experience is virtually priceless, developing over the years the ability to detect an error to one thousandth of a millimeter.

The precision achieved, not through a machine but workers’ hands, is critical for the gauges’ performance and safety.

The former Japanese Prime Minister YoshihikoNoda was so impressed, he likened a veteran’s hands to “god’s hands.”

Not divine, but forced by circumstances to survive in a competitive business—both for workers and companies.

From Toledo to the Far East: Filipino President Responds to Manchester Attack

Manila, Philippines (WTOL) - While Manchester, England roils in the aftermath of an ISIS-connected bombing, right now there's fighting in the Philippines between security forces and extremists with links to the Islamic State.

Within minutes of landing in Manila minutes, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern province of Mindanao where nearly two dozen have been killed in the last few days of clashes.

At the time, Duterte was in Russia meeting with Vladimir Putin, cutting short a visit that raised international eyebrows. Under Duterte, this key U.S. Asia Pacific ally has been cultivating closer ties with Russia and China.

The Filipino President is known in the region as the Donald Trump of Asia.

At a briefing I attended with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials admit that while Duterte's statements are contradictory, he is strategic--tailoring his message to different audiences.

Like Trump, President Duterte is an outsider who has an unconventional approach to international and domestic issues such as the so-called drug war.

Since he assumed office last year, he has rounded up drug dealers. With drug addicts, he's taken the opposite approach of Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp and his D.A.R.T program, warning addicts they have one year to get clean or deserve to die. Despite his controversial rhetoric and actions, Duterte's supporters, many who are poor and traditionally outside the political system, remain steadfast with their support.

In the Philippines, people are closely watching the Trump Administration's hard line approach on immigration and trade. This island nation houses call centers with workers servicing U.S. companies.

It also exports service-oriented workers to the U.S., including tech workers, as well as nurses and caregivers who work in nursing homes and hospitals, including in Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan.

Their remittances, or money they send back to family in the Philippines total $9.6 billion in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. A change in U.S. trade and immigration policy could be devastating to a country struggling to overcome hundreds of years of poverty.

From Toledo to the Far East: On North Korea, China is Hands Off

Beijing, China (WTOL) - North Korea tested a second medium-range ground to ground ballistic missile leader Kim Jong-un reportedly describes as "perfect" while I am in China.

That's two missile launch tests in one week as North Korea continues on a path that could eventually result in developing the capacity to deliver a missile that can hit a target in the region such as South Korea and Japan, or even the U.S. west coast.

Government officials and experts in the U.S. and Japan tell me China has the most leverage with the rogue nation because it provides 90 percent of the goods traded with North Korea.

But why isn't China heeding the U.S. and its allies' calls to use this power to reign in North Korea?

A spokesperson tells me at a Chinese Department of Defense briefing I attended, that's not China's job.

"We are not like certain countries whose policies in foreign affairs are to mentor or coach or to intervene in other countries so that they need to do things in a certain way," insisted Army Senior Colonel Yujun Yang through a translator.

Experts here also tell me China may want to maintain this status quo to distract the U.S. and its allies from its military expansion in the region, specifically in the South China Sea.

Tensions show no sign of easing as North Korea indicates it will continue testing missiles, and the U.S. Navy is soon moving the USS Ronald Reagan to the area while the USS Carl Vinson continues operating there.

From Toledo to the Far East: Robots Caring for Senior Citizens in Japan

Tokyo, Japan (WTOL) - Senior citizens sing, clap, and follow their leader.

Not just the nursing home caregiver, but the humanoid robot Pepper made by SoftBank Robotics Corporation.

The corporation is part of a Japanese global technology company that announced it is investing $50 billion in the U.S. at Trump Tower in December.

I was able to see Pepper turn up its charm and connect with seniors at the Do Life Shinagawa nursing home run by social welfare corporation Silver Wing.

Through a special government grant, this facility in Tokyo is testing technology made by companies like Honda.

This technology is aimed at helping Japan deal with its rapidly aging population.

It's the fastest aging population in the world with estimates that in the next twenty years, 30% of Japanese will be over the age of 75.

Enter innovation: beds that can turn into wheelchairs, mechanized harnesses that can help the shortage of caregivers life the weight of a senior.

Then there's Paro, the stuffed animal seal invented by research scientists at Tsukuba’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Paro provides comfort and even companionship to lonely or sick seniors and dementia patients.

Robotics is important enough that a key governmental department, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is funding several experimental programs.

Opponents raise privacy and ethics concerns with this new technology.

But with the statistics representing an exploding aging population as a daunting demographic, economic, and social challenge, Japan shows no sign of slowing down as it pioneers a necessary and compassionate solution.

From Toledo to the Far East: Japanese Officials Comment on North Korea Threat

Tokyo, Japan (WTOL) - I was just miles away when North Korea tested its latest missile this weekend.

Japanese experts and government officials I am speaking with in Tokyo tell our group of reporters on the East-West Center Jefferson Fellowship that North Korean provocations are not new.

For decades, the rogue nation has defied international law by acquiring, developing and trying out its nuclear program. Still, as I experienced first hand, proximity puts Japan and Tokyo's more than 9 million residents in North Korea's crosshairs.

A missile could hit Japan in just ten minutes.

Officially armed with only defense forces as a result of the World War II peace agreement, the Japanese are vulnerable and fear a provocation could escalate quickly and result in destruction and scores dead or maimed.

Ways for the Japanese protect itself include a military solution within the scope of defensive measures, including using conventional weapons, ballistic shields and strong ties with allies such as the U.S.

Another option is diplomatic and the strongest hand belongs China which makes up 90 percent of North Korea's trade. But the Asian giant may want to keep things with North Korea as they are in order to pursue its economic and political expansion in the region.

"The problem is that China does have the ability to influence North Korea. But they don't have the willingness to do so," declared security professor Michi Michishita from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan.

Professor Michishita also cautions against believing that these actions are the sign of an unhinged man. Rather, the recent missile tests like the one that occurred during the weekend is a reflection of a strategic leader who aims to extract recognition as an equal among nations from the U.S. and the world, as well as economic trade benefits.

Whatever the end game, I am learning that Japan and its people have little choice but to hope for a peaceful resolution while preparing for the worst, including direct missile strikes.

From Toledo to the Far East: First-hand Look at a U.S. Navy Guided Missile Destroyer

Honolulu, Hawaii (WTOL) - With a group of reporters, I got a first-hand, on board look atthe USS John Paul Jones, which directs and coordinates anti-air, surface, undersea, and strike warfare missions.

As part of the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet, this includes patrolling the waters of the Pacific and being ready for battle.

No matter the diplomatic or foreign policy ups and downs, the military must prepare to carry out orders. Right now tensions are rising with actions interpreted as provocations from North Korea and China.

In February of this year, the USS John Paul Jones completed a ballistic missile intercept in a test off the coast of Hawaii in a joint military exercise between America and Japan.

Upgrades to this guided missile destroyer built in Bath, Maine in early 1990's include being outfitted with the AEGIS Weapons combat system to conduct offensive and defensive operations using Tomahawk and Harpoon cruise missiles.

In addition to the recent ballistic missile intercept test, the destroyer's resume includes launching the first Tomahawk missiles into Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

From Toledo to the Far East: Jobs, trade, training

Honolulu, Hawaii (WTOL) - Trade's impact on our workers' jobs was one of the hot topics that elected Donald Trump.

Candidates and workers in the audience railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement or (NAFTA) or the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as the reason why factories closed which left workers without the good paying jobs their parents or grandparents had enjoyed. Upon assuming office, President Trump quickly withdrew the U.S. from TPP.

But experts in Honolulu at the non-profit and non-partisan think tank, the East West Center, said trade deals have helped Americans by allowing them to buy a variety of cheaper goods and critically keeping higher skilled and paying jobs in the U.S.

But our workers need the education and training to acquire the more sophisticated skills needed in higher tech and automated workplaces.

Before leaving Toledo, I pressed U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) on the lack of support for students and workers needing the training to gain more skills.

"Some will go on to college, others won’t but they’ll have a good job. Maybe it is in welding, other manufacturing. But it may be in software, IT, bioscience. Let’s help on the re-training but make sure that the young people coming up can compete with those from other countries like China," affirms Senator Portman.

Education and constant re-training will help workers in Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan maintain an edge to compete with
workers around the world.

From Toledo to the Far East: Lessons for the present from Pearl Harbor

Honolulu, Hawaii (WTOL) - Beneath a solemn memorial in Oahu, Hawaii is a watery grave where nearly 2,000 sailors and marines died on board the U.S.S. Arizona when Japanese forces attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet docked in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, it's the day that lives in infamy more the 75 years later. The attack brought the United States into World War II.

Experts say that moment in history sheds light on the role the U.S. plays in the Pacific.

Right now, this is where the U.S.'s dual position as the top global and military leader is being challenged.

How does the U.S. respond to China's expansion in the South China seas or to a combative North Korea? And how vulnerable are Hawaii and the west coast if, for example, North Korea, develops a delivery method for missiles?

People in northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan, like others throughout the country, worry about the U.S. being dragged into a conflict overseas.

Pearl Harbor is a reminder that our past contains clues that could guide our present.

From Toledo to the Far East: Jobs, Frugs and the Trump factor

(WTOL) - Toledo News Leader will get a first-hand look at the issues that affect us here in Toledo that are coming in to focus as President Trump passes his first 100 days in office mark.

Beginning this Saturday, I’ll be traveling to Hawaii, China, Japan, and the Philippines and reporting as part of the East West Center 2017 journalist-focused Jefferson Fellowship.

I will be in countries where the jobs migrated, in part because of trade deals that resulted over decades in tens of thousands of job losses in our area.

I’ll also look at the origin of the drugs flooding our neighborhoods. China is the world’s #1 producer of fentanyl.

“You may not like what they’re doing but it’s not entirely fair to blame the other country for selling it to us when Americans are buying it,” said U.S. Senator
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) about the high demand for drugs, specifically fentanyl, from American drug users.

A national leader in fighting this epidemic, Sen. Brown is championing legislation to seize the drugs coming from overseas like China before they reach Ohio.

I not only spoke with Senator Brown before my trip, but other leaders who stress that people in northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan are informed about current events and realize how deeply connected they are to the rest of the world.

United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 14 President Ray Wood says younger workers are worried about another war. This is one reason why Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who traveled to Asia in April, insists on reigning in a combative North Korea through a diplomatic partnership with China.

“Ninety percent of the trade of North Korea is with China. They share a border with North Korea. They have traditionally been the country that has kept North Korea afloat, literally from imploding economically. They have more leverage over North Korea than literally any other country in the world,” explained Senator Portman.

Persuading China to be on the same side as the U.S. is critical to prevent North Korea from attacking American allies in Asia which could result in millions killed and drag the U.S. into a conflict.  

Arguably the hottest topic are job losses which have skyrocketed since the 1980s while union membership has plummeted.

UAW’s Ray Wood affirms unions have been forced to adapt by learning more skills and expanding their job duties. He is calling on companies to view workers as a partner who shares the same goal: keeping American companies and workers strong.

“In Europe, Asia, they’re all trying to get a better hand. Instead of being adversaries or pushing us off to the side and not value their input, how about pull the best out of them so we can meet those global competitors and let them know who Americans are.”

On jobs, drugs, and world leadership, America is being re-defined, I’m excited to get a first-hand look at the players and the dynamics.