Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another IKEA Opens In Japan...

...and I was not invited, again. LOL, I went to visit the new one in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, that just blew me away. What a culture shock. The best and the worst, of two worlds!

First, it is HUGE unlike anything I have seen in Japan. Yes, there are other Home Centers and some are rather big, but IKEA is humongous and like a maze, once you get inside. You will get lost among the Älmhult designs with names like Tönt or Skvallerkärring and Kullerbytta. Well, not the first two, but maybe the last one, say for a cozy armchair made in Malaysia. Funny thing, at IKEA, next to nothing sold is actually Made in Sweden.

Dazed amongst all the blue and yellow, I walked and walked, lost among plastic window cleaners at 200 Yen or pretty classy paper lamps at 2000 Yen. Oh, they have expensive items too, but I wasn't in the mood. Weird plastic Christmas decorations and mass produced Almoge curtains. Not an Organic cotton cushion in sight, but that might change, I suppose, if people here start asking for it.

Best and the worst? Well, the staff is super friendly, and addressed me in English, which was odd, but cute, since I said "Tack så mycket" in Swedish, so maybe they just misheard. But again, very friendly and helpful, in that special Japanese way, where customer is, well not king, more like, "I appreciate that you shop here, that pays my salary, so I will treat you like I wish you would treat me" kind of way. Then of course, this being Japan, the lack of real information, as in what kind of materials are really used, and where do products come from, like the wood, is it from Amazon rain forests or Siberian old growth, cut down by dubious loggers hoping to retire on the Crimea...

I really liked the ubiquitous IKEA restaurant on the second floor, if you are a vegetarian you could eat well there, try the broccoli medallion, grönsakskaka or ベジタブルメダリオン for 200 Yen, with mush potatoes and salad, or rice. For all of you who eat anything, there are meatballs, and other IKEA language pages identify them as made with pork and beef from Australia, but not so the Japanese page. That may because a lot of processed food from Australia contains meat that is imported from other countries.

Australian Pork Ltd told the committee that most consumers are unaware that 70 per cent of "Australian made" ham and bacon is made from imported pork.

So it is complicated. The salmon may or may not be from Norway, the information is confusing.

In the famous IKEA food shop, I bought knäckebröd, Made in Finland. Yummy, and I trust that, real rye bread cannot be faked...

OK, back to regular blogging, soon, after this dip into Swedish multinational colonialism redux, a kind of reminder that the World carries on, with or without you... Lots and lots of young couples in their 20s and 30s, looking to spruce up their homes. I wish them well, and I wish IKEA will become a responsible corporate member here in Japan, and publish their CSR report in Japanese, for a start.

Top image from Tachikawa My Pleasure

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amari: "[TPP] Agreement Is Not Yet In Sight"

Score another failed round of negotiations, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues to let down big business that wants less regulations and more secrecy.

And meanwhile, Japan's newly appointed Trade Minister Miyazawa is in hot water for taking illegal donations from a foreign company, a story that I'm sure will have more importance than the fact that some on his staff joined a S&M club and paid for it from his pocket (although he says he did not attend).

But back to TPP. Today, another non-round of negotiations (the last proper one was held in Brunei, which I attended as a "stakeholder" for Consumers Union of Japan) has failed to get results. This time in Sydney, the amicable host, Australian Trade Minister Robb (how is that for irony, a politician actually called exactly was they do best, rob paul to pay peter, etc. etc.) criticized NGOs and other experts who are trying to bring information about this deal to the public:

Mr Robb lashed out at consumer groups and the Greens for spreading misinformation about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, before walking into a meeting with 11 trade counterparts in Sydney on Saturday to finalise the "basic elements" of the deal.
"Those who are opposed to this scheme for all sorts of reasons are peddling a lot of misinformation, saying pharmacy costs will go up," he said on ABC Radio.
"This is not the intention or the outcome that will occur with this particular 21st century agreement."
Mr Robb's words back up assurances by Finance Minister Matthias Cormann this week that the government would not support an outcome that sees medicine costs pushed up.
But consumer advocacy group Choice claims the trade deal includes provisions to stretch patents on some life-saving drugs for an extra 12 years. Prices usually drop 16 per cent once the patent expires.
"If the TPP extends patents we'll be paying higher prices for some medicines over a longer period of time," said Choice's campaign manager Erin Turner.

I might add that Choice is a highly respected independent consumer organization in Australia, with a long history as a member of Consumers International.

In Australia, the debate and the demonstrations have been fierce this weekend. Here is a good take from The Conversation, with some history to help you if you feel a little lost:

Deja vu: last week a new version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was leaked. Even as experts try to make sense of 77 pages of complex text, IP negotiators are meeting in Australia this week and next to try to finalise the treaty.
Experts have already highlighted some big issues with this IP text. Extensive proposals on patents, clinical test data and the links between patent law and processes for approving pharmaceutical products, if agreed, look like creating barriers to access to medicines in the region. There are unprecedented proposals to criminalise certain kinds of unauthorised access to or use of trade secrets that, at their broadest, could threaten journalism and whistleblowers.
Extensive criminal and civil enforcement provisions are also there. Some extraordinarily long copyright terms – yes, longer even than we already have here in Australia – are still on the table. Less widely commented on are proposals – not surprisingly opposed by Australia – that would demand changes to our local IP rules, especially in the area of trademark law (with special and potentially very broad protection for famous brands) and in our protection of industrial designs. What’s striking about this is how little has been learnt from the past.

If you are interested in how TPP may complicate efforts to protect the environment, do read my analysis over at Japan Focus:

The documents reveal that Japan plays a major role in obstructing the progress of the Environment Chapter. Japan is “concerned” with the language relating to equivalency in the scope of the coverage, that is, the question of how a country may deal with imported products that are identical or almost identical with domestically produced products. For example, imported timber from tropical forests would compete with “similar” wood products produced domestically, unless rules are in place to prevent this. Without international rules, it would be impossible for an importing country to compete with countries that export wood products manufactured by corporations that engage in clear-cutting. Increased trade in such timber would lead to even more destruction of rainforests, and less ability to control the corporations that engage in unsustainable logging practices. Efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and provide consumers with information about how food has been produced could also be curbed.

On the other hand, we learn that Japan has joined all other nations in opposing a proposal by the United States related to how to address other environmental agreements. This is connected to whether or not the novel dispute settlement mechanism in the TPP should be implemented. The United States, which has refused to ratify many global environmental agreements, seeks to settle trade conflicts in the TPP rather than the WTO. This could make it difficult for countries like Japan to maintain stricter domestic legislation that resulted from having ratified other environmental agreements.

Still, there has not been a single proper round of negotiations held in Japan. 

There are a lot of critics here, and before Japan’s trade officials sign anything, it ought to be discussed in public. Or maybe it will just fizzle out, as the United States heads towards mid-term elections, and no support seems to be forthcoming to support TPP in Congress? Why should people in Japan and their elected representatives not have the same rights to democratically discuss a major trade deal? 

Oct. 27, 2014 - Updated 12:59 UTC+9
The Japanese and US chief negotiators for the projected Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement met in Sydney on Monday. But they were unable to break the deadlock in trade negotiations between the 2 nations.
Japan's Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari met US Trade Representative Michael Froman, shortly before the final day session of the 3-day talks. 12 countries are participating in the TPP negotiations.
They apparently failed to achieve a breakthrough on key areas, including removal of tariffs on 5 agricultural categories.
After the meeting, Amari told reporters the 2 sides will continue with working-level talks in an aim to narrow their differences.
He said much progress has been made since the bilateral ministerial meeting in Washington last month.
But he said difficult issues remain, and agreement is not yet in sight.
Amari also said the 2 countries are in the final phase of the negotiations and that the talks will likely become more difficult. He added both sides will step up their efforts.
Amari indicated that he will meet Froman again before the summit talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Op-Ed Against TPP by Ralph Nader and Koa Tasaka (Asahi Shimbun)

We got the following op-ed published in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun this week, co-signed by Ralph Nader from Public Citizen and Koa Tasaka from Consumers Union of Japan. It was written in response to an editorial column that made unsubstantiated claims about TPP and consumers.

In its September 08, 2014 editorial, Asahi Shimbun argued that “Japan, U.S. should consider consumers, not industries, in reaching TPP deal.”

As consumer movement leaders in the U.S. and Japan, we agree that it is crucial that both countries prioritize consumer interests. However, we strongly disagree with the editorial’s unsupported assumption that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it is currently being negotiated would benefit consumers.

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment.
From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Consider who has had the greatest influence on the TPP. Almost all of the 500 official U.S. private sector trade “advisors” represent corporate interests. While agribusiness, Wall Street, and pharmaceutical interests have had special access to the process and negotiating text, representatives from consumer, health, and other public interest organizations have been left in the dark. Even members of the U.S. Congress cannot easily access the draft text. Similarly in Japan, elected members of the Parliament are unable to provide any constructive input to the negotiations.

Due to the extreme secrecy of the negotiations, it is impossible to know everything damaging to consumers that may be included in the TPP text. However, leaked draft texts of some of the chapters have confirmed that the TPP rules would benefit large multinational corporations at the expense of consumers.

The leak of the TPP’s environmental chapter shows that the U.S., which is not a party to United Nation conventions such as the Climate Change Convention or the Biological Diversity Convention, will do everything it can to use TPP to continue to avoid rules suggested by the international community.

Also, a leak of the TPP’s investment chapter indicates that it will include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a controversial system that grants foreign investors the right to sue governments in extrajudicial tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic policies or government actions that may diminish the investors’ future “expected profits.” This brazen infringement of national sovereignty has been used under NAFTA and other treaties by corporations to attack toxics bans, nuclear energy phase-outs, tobacco regulation, unsafe food import bans, financial stability measures, water and timber policies, mining safety rules, fracking bans, and more. The cases are heard by three private-sector lawyers, many of whom are in a conflict of interest as they rotate between serving as “judges” and suing governments for corporations. These cases cannot be appealed and there is no limit on what the tribunals can order governments to pay. This is corporate supremacy run amuck.

Under U.S. trade agreements alone, governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. Or, to avoid threatened challenges, governments have been “chilled” from taking action, such as after R.J. Reynolds threatened Canada when it was considering stronger tobacco regulation. ISDS is not the only anti-consumer aspect of the TPP.

As well, a leaked draft of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed that TPP would expand the scope of medicine patents and strengthen drug monopolies, increasing the consumer price of crucial drugs. The TPP would also require countries to allow the importation of food that does not meet domestic safety standards. Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary chapter, food labels providing important information for consumers could be challenged as a trade barrier, including labels for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This is completely unacceptable in Japan, where we are asking for better protection of biological diversity, and Japan’s mandatory labeling rules should be improved, not challenged.

Despite the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, the TPP’s Financial Services chapter would limit our governments’ ability to regulate to preserve financial stability and protect consumers’ hard-earned savings. Draconian copyright provisions pushed by Hollywood could jeopardize consumers’ access to information on the Internet.

These are just a few examples of crucial consumer policies that could be jeopardized by the TPP in its current corporate dominated form.

So, yes, the U.S. and Japan have an obligation to protect consumer interests within an open democratic process. However, the TPP negotiations are achieving the opposite, posing a dire threat to consumer protection and the public interest. That is why many of the largest consumer organizations in the U.S. and Japan are vehemently opposed to the TPP’s dictatorial impacts.

Ralph Nader, Public Citizen
Koa Tasaka, Consumers Union of Japan

October 23, 2014 (私の視点)TPP 消費者への深刻な脅威だ ラルフ・ネーダー、田坂興亜
朝日新聞は、英文サイトに掲載した9月8日付の社説(本紙は7日付朝刊)で、TPP(環太平洋経済連携協定)は消費者にメリットをもたらすという前 提でTPPに賛同するような姿勢を示したが、日米両国の消費者運動の主導的立場にあるものとしてTPPが!する問題を提起したい。

Please support Consumers Union of Japan and Public Citizen!

Thursday, October 23, 2014



My brother is in Madrid, the Champions League has that effect on people.


Malmö FF against Madrid...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WTO: You Have No Right To Know Where Your Meat Comes From

Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) in the US is a problem, but how will it affect labels in Japan?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the United States over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat.

The latest U.S. labeling rules, put into effect in 2013, require meat sold in grocery stores to indicate the country, or countries, where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

According to a WTO report released on Monday, the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. But the WTO compliance panel also found that the labels do provide U.S. consumers with information on the origin of their food, countering Canada and Mexico’s assertion that the labels do not serve their intended purpose.

The NGO opposition has already made its case, but will the WTO listen?

And, will you listen?

Corporate Trade Agenda Threatens American Consumer’s Right to Know
Washington, D.C.—Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) rules for meat and poultry that went into effect in 2013 still ran afoul of the global trade rules. The WTO’s compliance panel decided that the goal of country of origin labels was not trade illegal, but it narrowly found that the implementation of the COOL rules discouraged livestock imports from Canada and Mexico.

“The WTO’s continued assault against commonsense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The United States should appeal the ruling and continue to fight for sensible consumer safeguards at the supermarket.”

The WTO has not acted expeditiously on the COOL dispute and the expected appeal will likely drag on well into 2015. The compliance panel began working on this phase of the dispute in September 2013. Although meat industry opponents of COOL and other corporate interests are demanding that Congress take action to repeal COOL, there is no need to legislatively change this labeling program.

“Congress should leave the popular COOL labels alone and not legislate in haste,” said Hauter. “The muddy WTO ruling does not warrant a blunt legislative instrument like repealing or weakening COOL.”

COOL labels were included in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills due to overwhelming consumer and farmer support. COOL is required for unprocessed beef, pork, poultry, lamb, goat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, some nuts and seafood. Congress reaffirmed mandatory labeling in the 2014 Farm Bill by adding venison to the products covered by the COOL labels.

Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. rules for COOL at the WTO in 2008 before the first label was ever applied to a steak or pork chop. COOL didn’t even go into effect until 2009, and those original labels were vague and confusing to consumers, especially the ‘mixed-origin’ labels that were allowed to state for example, ‘Product of USA, Canada.’ Canada and Mexico prevailed in the WTO dispute over the original 2009 rules when the WTO determined that, although the goal of providing information about the source of food to consumers was WTO-legal, the confusing labels did not justify the cost of maintaining information on the origin of livestock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the COOL rules in 2013 to address the concerns raised by the WTO decision by eliminating the misleading ‘mixed origin’ country of origin label for meat and ensuring that each cut of meat displays each stage of production (where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered) on the label. This sensible approach improved the utility of the information consumers receive from the label and allows livestock producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace.

Nonetheless, Canada and Mexico demanded that the WTO reject the new COOL rules and today the WTO recognized that although the new rules attempt to fulfill a WTO-legitimate regulatory objective and were more accurate, it found that the new labeling regime still did not appropriately balance consumer information with the regulatory costs. It suggested that the rules were not specific enough (by not clearly specifying that imported livestock fed in the United States also were fed for a portion of their lives in the country where they were born) and highlighted the preposterously unlikely scenario of consumers being mislead in the event that livestock were raised in multiple countries before being imported to the United States. These dubious limitations on consumer information provided the basis for arguing that the new COOL labels did not provide sufficiently accurate information to justify the cost of the rule. 
“People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from. It is nonsensical that a label that lets consumers know the origin of their food is a trade barrier,” said Hauter. “Congress and USDA must stand up to the WTO and maintain the existing requirements for country of origin labeling.”

This trade dispute also highlights how corporate special interests can use the WTO to evade democratic governance. For the last fifteen years, the U.S. meatpacking industry has tried to prevent consumers from knowing the source of their food. The industry opposed COOL in the Congress, the executive branch and the courts but COOL has survived the special interest attacks. This year, the meatpacking lobby sued to block the 2013 COOL rules and lost their legal case at the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals and even a further en banc panel of Appellate jurists. The meatpackers also tried and failed to repeal COOL during the 2014 Farm Bill debate.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TPP: Not Only Agricultural And Auto Products, "Irrational Demands" And More

From The Financial Times:

The biggest hold-up remains the inability of the US and Japan to conclude their increasingly tense bilateral negotiations over agricultural and auto products. But big gaps still remain on issues such as intellectual property and in the labour and environmental chapters of the TPP, say negotiators.
“The mood of the negotiators going to Canberra and then on to Sydney is not necessarily very optimistic,” says one Japanese official. “We don’t have any indication that the US will back down on a number of irrational demands they are making.”

Financial Times: US trade agenda hinges on midterm elections

US trade agenda hinges on midterm elections

Financial Times
By Shawn Donnan
October 20, 2014

And who is Yoichi Miyazawa?

PM Abe has appointed Mr Yoichi Miyazawa as Japan's new Trade Minister. On his Japanese wikipedia page, there is a note that he is "against" TPP.


He went to Harvard in 1978 so at least we can expect him to know some English. As for not wanting foreigners with a permanent residency status to vote, well, LDP is much like UKIP and the Conservatives, wrapped up in one...

His father, Kiichi Miyazawa was briefly PM until 1993, when for the first time, LDP was voted out of power. The Guardian had this in the obituary:

Fluent in English, [Kiichi] Miyazawa served as an aide to the negotiators who drew up the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty. Indeed, it was his desire to overcome the historical animosity that blighted Japan's relations with its wartime enemies that drove him in the later years of his career. Despite being instrumental in giving Japanese troops a greater role in UN peacekeeping missions in the early 1990s, he was also a staunch supporter of Japan's postwar pacifist constitution.

 PM Abe supported by the children of older statesmen, well, isn't that democracy at its best...


Monday, October 20, 2014

Who is Akira Amari?

I don't understand why Akira Amari is in charge of Japan's TPP negotiations.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TPP: Who Is Really In Charge In Japan?

Mrs. Yuko Obuchi, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry just resigned this weekend over a huge money scandal. 

She is the daughter of a former prime minister, Mr. Keizo Obuchi.

But who is really in charge of Japan's trade issues?

I hope someone can help me explain.

Back in the 1998 government, then prime minister Obuchi included 48 year old Mr. Akari Amari as Labour Minister, as well as Parliamentary Vice-Minister for International Trade and Industry.

15 years later, Mr. Amari has recently been in charge of Japan's TPP team, and has tried hard to convince the US that Japan cannot agree to all the unreasonable demands from the US, especially regarding agriculture.

Mrs Obuchi, meanwhile, did not appear to care much one way or the other.

But I wonder, is Mr. Amari the right person to trust or are other forces about to take over? He is a Tenrikyo man, so let's hope he has some sense of spiritual guidance, whatever that may be.

Hinokishin (lit. daily service) is a spontaneous action that is an expression of gratitude and joy for being allowed to "borrow" his or her body from God the Parent. Such an action ideally is done as an act of religious devotion out of a wish to help or bring joy to others, without any thought of compensation. Hinokishin can range from helping someone to just a simple smile to brighten another person's day. Examples of common Hinokishin activities that are encouraged include cleaning public bathrooms and parks among other such acts of community service. Doing the work that others want to do least are considered sincere in the eyes of God.

Hinokishin is a method of "sweeping" the "mental dusts" that accumulate in our minds. The "mental dusts" are referring to the Eight Mental Dusts. The official translations of these dusts are: Miserliness (Oshii), Covetousness (Hoshii), Hatred (Nikui), Self-love (Kawai), Grudge-bearing (Urami), Anger (Haradachi), Greed (Yoku), Arrogance (Kouman).

As for Mrs. Obuchi, I'm surprised media here did not catch on earlier. But then again, I am not. Prime Minister Abe is clearly out on a limb, trying to find anyone honest enough that wants to join his sinking ship. How Mrs. Obuchi was caught is for others to record, but right now, Japan is in the middle of a much serious debate - meanwhile, we are supposed to let the TPP negotiations carry on as usual?

A new leak of supposedly secret data reveals that Japan and the US are proposing many deals regarding the important chapter about patents, and intellectual property rights.

Forbes has more.*

Wikileaks has released a new draft of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, revealing that the US is still pushing for draconian measures on copyright infringement.

It also deals with rules for how drug companies can stop countries from making so-called generic drugs, or ways for countries to produce important medicines, avoiding paying for patents. Public health issues should be more important than profits for a few multinational drug makers, but not everyone agrees.


Gigazine: TPPの資料がまた流出、アメリカが著作権に関する戦慄の提案を推し進めていることが明らかに

With Mrs. Obuchi gone, who will prime minister Abe pick to replace her, as the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations are again on the agenda in late October, with informal meetings in Australia? Was her lack of leadership in one way or the other the reason she was kicked out of the Abe cabinet? And why has there not been a single proper round of negotiations held in Japan, so far?

* From Forbes:

The US has all along wished to introduce features of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), such as compelling ISPs to alert customers who are accused of illegal downloads and, possibly, take the infringing material down. If they failed to do so, they would themselves be liable for any copyright infringement by their customers. But the latest draft goes even further: the US wants to see these rules covering not just ISPs, but anyone providing internet services. And, as Alberto Cerda of Georgetown University Law Center points out to TorrentFreak, this means that coffee shops could potentially be held liable for copyright infringement by their customers.
Meanwhile, the copyright itself could be enforced for longer. While the previously-leaked draft showed that some countries were proposing flexibility on copyright terms, it seems that all are now agreed that there should be a universal minimum term, whether life-plus-50-years, life-plus-70 or life-plus-100.

The US is also calling for criminal sanctions for copyright infringement, even where the infringement isn’t being carried out for commercial reasons.
“If the US gets its way, then criminal penalties will apply even against users who were not seeking financial gain from sharing or making available copyrighted works, such as fans and archivists,” write Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse.”
Indeed, a similar provision in a free trade agreement between Columbia and the US led to copyright laws that saw a Columbian graduate student arrested for posting another student’s academic paper online without permission.
But while the last leaked draft of the TPP, dated November 2013, showed strong international opposition to this criminalization plan, Canada now seems to be the only serious hold-out.
This may, suggests James Love of Knowledge Ecology International, be because this new draft gives some countries extra time to implement the agreement – meaning that current governments won’t necessarily have to carry the can for their decisions.
“Developing countries are being asked to accept very restrictive standards for intellectual property in return for transition periods that defer the harm until current governments are now longer held accountable,” he says. “This will be a short-term benefit in exchange for a long term harm.”
The draft calls for countries to introduce criminal penalties for unauthorised access to, misappropriation of or disclosure of trade secrets “by any person using a computer system”. This would apply where the actions led to commercial advantage or financial gain; where they were directed by “a foreign economic entity”; or where they were detrimental to a country’s economic interests, international relations, national defence or national security.
These are very broad provisions, and don’t allow any exceptions in the public interest, such as journalism or whistleblowing.
“This text goes far beyond existing trade secrets law, which in the United States and other common law countries is usually a matter for the civil not the criminal courts,” write Malcolm and Sutton of the EFF.
“No public interest exception, such as for journalism, is provided. In practice, this could obligate countries into enacting a draconian anti-hacking law much like the Criminal Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that was used to prosecute Aaron Swartz.”

These changes matter all the more because of the inclusion in the trade agreement of so-called Investor -State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – a system that allows corporations to sue governments for decisions that result in a loss of profits. UN figures uncovered by the Independent newspaper recently revealed that US companies have already made billions of dollars from suing foreign governments under similar ISDS agreements.
The good news is that the US appears to be fairly isolated in some of its more extreme requests, with Canada pushing back hard: indeed, according to Wikileaks, Canada has registered its opposition to proposals 56 times, more than any other country. Canada’s recently enacted its own copyright legislation, and is working hard to keep it: and while it now looks like the only country still putting up much of a fight against the US, this latest leak could work in its favor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Japan Toilet Paper Myth, And Some Realities

September 1 each year is a day when Japan remembers its many earthquakes and other emergencies. Events are held to train people how to use fire extinguishers and other equipment.

This year, before that date, the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry mentioned that as a general precaution, households ought to stock up on, say 15 rolls of toilet paper rolls per month, in advance. Not a very unreasonable piece of advice.

Without mentioning the focus on September 1, many foreign news media carried all kinds of headlines about this. Be that as it may.

Expecting young journalists to understand Japan is like - well - it's the old hands I'm more worried about. Also, back in 1973, scare stories in Japanese media about people buying two years worth of the rolls triggered others to hoard as well. Media bears a huge responsibility in times like these. Reports about any event of mass buying will of course encourage others to engage in - mass buying.

They know that back during the oil crisis in 1973, some consumers did indeed panic and hoard - toilet paper.

The Asahi was as guilty as the rest: Oil shock triggers hoarding of daily necessities around Japan

Panicked hoarding of daily necessities spread throughout Japan after rumors arose about shortages stemming from export restrictions and price increases implemented by Middle East petroleum producer nations.

Shoppers at a supermarket in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward form a long line to buy sugar. The price of various products rose due to the oil shortage, including such daily necessities as detergent, cooking oil, shoyu and kerosene. The measures taken by Middle Eastern petroleum producers led to a fourfold increase in petroleum prices over a few months. Japan's dependence on imported petroleum led to large increases in wholesale and consumer prices through 1974.

Also, some 40% of Japan's rolls are made in Shizuoka prefecture, which could be hit by a major earthquake, or not.

So, Bloomberg and others, is it really that unreasonable for Japan to quietly tell its people to have enough rolls to avoid a crisis?

Why the need to put the word "fearing" and "panic" in the headline, when it is actually a very reasonable piece of advice?

Bloomberg: Japan Fearing Toilet Paper Panic Makes Stockpiling Plea

Japan's bureaucrats don’t want the nation to be caught with its pants down the next time toilet paper supplies run short after a natural disaster. 
That’s why the government is rolling out its latest public-awareness campaign, entitled “Let’s Stockpile Toilet Paper,” which involves an exhibition on the topic at the trade ministry, a summit of industry leaders and the sale of specially packaged “emergency use” toilet tissue. 

The campaign, conducted in cooperation with the Japan Household Paper Industry Association, is part of the ministry’s “toilet paper supply continuity plan,” which was devised in response to shortages after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as to the outright hoarding that occurred during the oil shock of the 1970s. 

“In addition to the toilet paper that households keep for everyday use, we’re recommending that they maintain a stockpile as well,” Masakazu Kawasaki, deputy director of the ministry’s paper industry and consumer goods division, said by phone.


Wouldn't it be great if others noticed the effort here, that October is 3Rs month in Japan!

The eight recycling-related ministries,* including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), have designated October as “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Promotion Month” (namely, “3Rs Promotion Month”) for the purpose of fostering the public understanding of and social cooperation for the promotion of the 3Rs. Annual nationwide promotional and awareness-raising activities aimed at the public take place during the month.
METI hereby announces that METI and related organizations will hold a series of events during 3Rs Promotion Month 2014.

*Eight related ministries: Ministry of Finance (MOF); Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT); Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW); Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF); METI; Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT); Ministry of the Environment (MOE); and Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA)

The 3Rs stands for:
Reduce: Reduction of waste generation 〈Don’t be wasteful. Reduce garbage.〉
Reuse: Reuse of products and parts 〈Use things again and again.〉
Recycle: Use of recycled resources 〈Recycle resources for reuse.〉
During the month, 24 major events will be held across Japan. For details, see the Japanese language press release.

World Biodiversity Plan Shows Progress, But Not Enough

Bluebells landscape from world biodiversity plan (UN.org)From cleantechnica.com

World - Aichi Biodiversity Targets Shows Progress, But Not Enough

What we eat may have the largest impact on biological diversity. Read more;

It’s not just about the polar bears and the honeybees. Sustainable development, and increasingly the stabilization of climate, depend more on biodiversity than we realized even a decade ago. Extinction, deforestation, overfishing, and pollution all restrict human abilities to nourish the planet.

Knowing that uniformity and paucity of species drain the world’s shared wealth and well-being, in 2011 the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity drew up a comprehensive world biodiversity plan of goals for 2020.

At a meeting in Aichi, Japan, representatives of 194 nations formalized these global priorities. A report called Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (downloadable), released this week, demonstrates that “with concerted efforts at all levels,” we can still achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. If we do, we will also “significantly contribute to the broader global priorities of eliminating poverty, improving human health and providing energy, food, and clean water for all.”

The world diversity plan report came at an especially important time: the start of a huge worldwide biodiversity meeting in South Korea, with 20,000 government officials, environmentalists, and businesspeople attending.

Braulio de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, told Alister Doyle of Reuters:
“There has been an increase in effort [by governments]… but this will not be enough to reach the targets…. Despite individual success stories, the average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, and amphibians is still increasing…. Many big companies still refuse to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their supply chain.”
The Global Biodiversity Outlook reports significant progress on some components of the Aichi targets. The goal of protecting at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas in parks or reserves, for example, is right on target. Targets missed so far include cutting the rate of natural habitat loss by 50% and preventing extinctions of species known to be threatened.

In most cases, current reports indicate that we will not be able to meet the 2020 objectives of the world biodiversity plan without taking additional action. Five broad goals represent target strategies here:
  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
  • Strategic Goal C: Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity.
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management, and capacity-building.
Each involves a number of subgoals. The report shows that only 10% (five of the 53 total objectives) is on target or ahead of schedule.

It’s important to note that none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets can be tackled alone. Many strongly depend on some or all of the other goals of the world biodiversity plan being implemented.

Agriculture and its collateral activities make up 70% of the projected terrestrial biodiversity losses.

We need to assertively address sustainable farming and current trends in food systems. By restoring ecosystem services in agricultural areas, reducing waste, cutting losses in supply chains, and paying close attention to shifts in consumption patterns, we may be able to reach the point of sustainable farming and raise food system productivity to a level that will support a burgeoning world population.

Below, Cleantechnica lists key potential actions for accelerating progress toward each target at the end of this article. Consult the full report for details.

Overall, important targets relating to the underlying causes of biodiversity loss (Strategic Goal A contains most of these) are developing national implementation plans for the Aichi targets (Target 17), and mobilizing financial resources (Target 20). The world’s price tag for reaching the 2020 biodiversity goals is now estimated at between $150-440 billion a year.
Sharks, other fish, coral reef (un.org)
Key potential actions that would accelerate progress toward the biodiversity targets
Strategic Goal A
  • Coherent, strategic and sustained communication efforts, strategies and campaigns to increase awareness of biodiversity and its values, and of ways to support its conservation and sustainable use.
  • Better use of the social sciences, including an understanding of the social, economic and cultural drivers motivating behaviour and their interplay, in order to improve the design of communication and engagement campaigns and of relevant policies.
  • The further compilation of environmental statistics and building environmental-economic accounts, including developing and maintaining national accounts of biodiversity-related natural resource stocks (such as forests and water) and where possible, integrating these into national financial accounts.
  • Developing and implementing policy plans, including priorities and timelines, leading to the removal, phasing out, or reform of harmful subsidies in cases where candidate incentives and subsidies for elimination, phase-out or reform are already known, taking timely action.
  • Better targeting and integration of agri-environmental schemes and other policy instruments towards desired biodiversity outcomes.
  • Strengthening partnerships among companies and industry associations, civil society and government agencies, in an accountable and transparent manner, to promote sustainable practices that address biodiversity.
Strategic Goal B
  • Developing integrated policies to address habitat loss and degradation, covering positive and negative incentives; engagement with sectoral groups, indigenous and local communities, landowners, other stakeholders and the general public; effective protected area networks and other area based conservation measures; and enforcement of relevant regulations and laws.
  • Making greater use of innovative fisheries management systems, such as community co-management, that provide fishers and local communities with a greater stake in the long-term health of fish stocks combined with the elimination, phasing out or reform of subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, phasing out destructive fishing practices and further developing marine protected area networks.
  • Making agriculture more efficient, including through improved targeting and efficiency of fertilizer, pesticide and water use, reducing post harvest losses and minimizing food waste, and promoting sustainable diets.
  • Reducing nutrient pollution by improving nutrient use efficiency in agriculture to reduce losses to the environment, enhancing treatment and recycling of sewage and industrial waste water, eliminating phosphates from detergent’s and the conservation and restoration of wetlands.
  • Increasing efforts to identify and control the main pathways responsible for species invasions, including through the development of border control or quarantine measures to reduce the likeli- hood of potentially invasive alien species being introduced, and making full use of risk analysis and international standards.
  • Sustainably managing fisheries on coral reefs and closely associated ecosystems, combined with managing coastal zones and inland watersheds in an integrated manner in order to reduce pollution and other land-based activities that threaten these vulnerable ecosystems.
Strategic Goal C
  • Expanding protected area networks and other effective area based conservation measures to become more representative of the planet’s ecological regions, of marine and coastal areas (including deep sea and ocean habitats), of inland waters and of areas of particular importance for biodiversity, including those that contain unique populations of threatened species.
  • Improving and regularly assessing management effectiveness and equitability of protected areas and other area-based conservation measures.
  • Developing species action plans aimed directly at particular threatened species.
  • Ensuring that no species is subject to unsustainable exploitation for domestic or international trade, including by actions agreed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Promoting public policies and incentives that maintain local varieties of crops and indigenous breeds in production systems, including through increased cooperation with, and recognition of, the role of indigenous and local communities and farmers in maintaining in situ genetic diversity.
  • Integrating the conservation of the wild relatives of domesticated crops and livestock in management plans for protected areas, conducting surveys of the location of wild relatives, and including this information in plans for the expansion or development of protected area networks.
Strategic Goal D
  • Identifying, at the national level, with the involvement of relevant stakeholders, those ecosystems that are particularly important in providing ecosystem services, with particular attention to ecosystems upon which vulnerable groups are directly dependent for their health, nutrition and general well-being and livelihoods, as well as ecosystems that help to reduce risks from disasters.
  • Reducing the pressures on and, where necessary, enhancing the protection and restoration of those ecosystems providing essential services (for example wetlands, coral reefs, rivers and forests and mountain areas as “water towers” among others).
  • Identifying opportunities and priorities for restoration, including highly degraded ecosystems, areas of particular importance for ecosystem services and ecological connectivity, and areas undergoing abandonment of agricultural or other human-dominated use.
  • Where feasible, making restoration an economically viable activity, by coupling employment and income generation with restoration activities.
  • Putting in place, by 2015, legislative, administrative or policy measures and institutional structures for implementing the Nagoya Protocol; and undertaking associated awareness-raising and capacity building activities including by engaging with indigenous and local communities and the private sector.
Strategic Goal E
  • Ensuring that national biodiversity strategies and action plans are up to date and aligned with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for example by setting national targets with corresponding indicators and monitoring mechanisms, with the participation of all stakeholders.
  • Promoting initiatives that support traditional and local knowledge of biodiversity and promote customary sustainable use, including traditional health care initiative, strengthening opportunities to learn and speak indigenous languages, research projects and data collection using community based methodologies, and involving local and indigenous communities in the creation, control, governance and management of protected areas.
  • Strengthening and promoting the further mobilization of and access to data by, for example, encouraging the use of common informatics standards and protocols, promoting a culture of data sharing, investing in digitization of natural history collections and promoting citizen scientists’ contributions to the body of biodiversity observations.
  • Establishing or strengthening monitoring programmes, including monitoring of land-use change, providing near-real time information where possible, in particular for “hotspots” of biodiversity change.
  • Developing national financial plans for biodiversity, as part of national biodiversity strategies and action plans, aligned, where possible, with national annual and multi-annual financial planning cycles.
  • Increasing national and international flows of resources for biodiversity, broadening biodiversity funding sources including by exploring innova- tive financial mechanisms, such as subsidy reform and payment for ecosystem services schemes, recognizing that a range of funding sources will be needed.
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