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The Rail: Anime ambassador

Anime ambassador TOKYO - Japan has created an unusual government post to promote animation, and named a perfect figure to the position: a popular cartoon robot cat named Doraemon. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura appointed the cat an "anime ambas...

Anime ambassador

Anime ambassador

TOKYO - Japan has created an unusual government post to promote animation, and named a perfect figure to the position: a popular cartoon robot cat named Doraemon.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura appointed the cat an "anime ambassador," handing a human-sized Doraemon doll an official certificate at an inauguration ceremony, along with dozens of "dorayaki" red bean pancakes - his favorite dessert - piled on a huge plate.

Komura told the doll, with a voice actress inside, that he hoped he would widely promote Japanese animated cartoons, or "anime."

"Doraemon, I hope you will travel around the world as an anime ambassador to deepen people's understanding of Japan so they will become friends with Japan," Komura told the blue-and-white cat.

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The appointment is part of Japan's recent effort to harness the power of pop culture in diplomacy. Japan also created an International Manga Award last year under comic enthusiast former Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who likened it to a "Nobel Prize" for an artist working abroad.

Manga, the name used for Japanese-style comic books, often combines complex stories with drawing styles that differ from their overseas superhero counterparts, particularly in their emphasis on cuteness.

This year, the ministry plans to arrange showings of a Doraemon film in Singapore, China, Spain, France and at other Japanese diplomatic missions around the world.

Dirty money, literally

JERUSALEM - Something didn't smell quite right with a pile of cash discovered at a sewage purification plant in northern Israel.

Shocked workers at the Tiberias plant found about 7,000 shekels ($2,000) of the dirty money, all in 200 shekel bills among the smelly sewage. Israeli TV showed the bills sticking out of sewage and stuck in pipes. The bills were cut in half.

"I called the police, but they didn't believe me. At first they thought I was playing a prank," plant manager Haim Cohen told Israeli reporters.

"When police did arrive, they didn't believe me and left," Cohen said. "Later on, different officers came and sifted through the sewage to see for themselves."

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Israeli media speculated that the stash might have been the result of a domestic dispute, and that one partner might have cut up the bills and flushed them down the toilet to punish the other.

An Israeli police spokesman said the money might have been linked to criminals, and police are investigating.

Today's best bet

Free movie

"Shark Tales"

2 p.m.

West Fargo Public Library, 1089 3rd St. E.

(701) 433-5460

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If there's something you want to seein The Rail, e-mail Features Editor Robert Morast at rmorast@forumcomm.com

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