Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sweden + We Are The Heroes

Sweden vs Russia, well. I rather liked the Russian entry, the Eurovision is such a laugh. Australia was even invited. Måns from Lund won, my brother knows his mom. Great efforts for peace, dancing. from all over the world. And yes, yes yes, there may be demons in our minds, but hey, we can do better. Karma? We all have to stop complaining. Reach for the great, each morning, say: good things will happen. We are all different, we are all great. And we had all better stop depending on politics that rely on anything but love and peace. Meditate.

Dancing with the demons of our minds, indeed.

How could that end up being the anthem of 2015 in Europe...


Don’t tell the gods I left a mess
I can’t undo what has been done
Let’s run for cover
What if I’m the only hero left?
You better fire off your gun
Once and forever
He said go dry your eyes
And live your life like there is no tomorrow, son
And tell the others
To go sing it like a hummingbird
The greatest anthem ever heard

We are the heroes of our time
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
We are the heroes of our time
Heroes, oh whoa…
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
Heroes, oh whoa…
We are the heroes of our time
Heroes, oh whoa…
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
Heroes, oh whoa…
The crickets sing a song for you
Don’t say a word, don’t make a sound
It’s life’s creation
I make worms turn into butterflies
Wake up and turn this world around
In appreciation
He said I never left your side
When you were lost I followed right behind
Was your foundation
Now go sing it like a hummingbird
The greatest anthem ever heard
Now sing together
We are the heroes of our time
Heroes, oh whoa…
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
Heroes, oh whoa…
We are the heroes
(We keep dancing with the demons)
(You could be a hero)


A million voices, we believe in the the same dream.

Eurovision Song Contest 2015 First Semi-Final
Flag of Russia Russia (C1R)
Performer: Polina Gagarina
Song title: A Million Voices
Song writer(s): Gabriel Alares, Joakim Björnberg, Katrina Noorbergen, Leonid Gutkin, Vladimir Matetsky
Song composer(s): Gabriel Alares, Joakim Björnberg, Katrina Noorbergen, Leonid Gutkin, Vladimir Matetsky
We are the worlds people
Different yet we're the same
We believe
We believe in a dream

Praying for peace and healing
I hope we can start again
We believe
We believe in a dream

So if you ever feel love is fading
Together like the stars in the sky
We can sing
We can shine

Chorus:
When you hear our voices call
You won't be lonely anymore
A million voices
Your heart is like a beating drum
Burning brighter than the sun
A million voices

Now as the world is listening
From cities and satellites
We believe
We believe
In a dream

If you ever feel love is fading
Together like the stars in the sky
We can sing
We can shine

Chorus:
When you hear our voices call
You won't be lonely anymore
A million voices
Your heart is like a beating drum
Burning brighter than the sun

And we can see the stars in the sky.



https://youtu.be/AoO1V_eOEPA

Måns Zelmerlöw - Heroes - Sweden - Preview Video - 2015 Eurovision Song Contest 

Russia

 

Polina Gagarina - A Million Voices (Russia) -

 

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

TPP: Name & Shame?

OK, OK, I'm going to have a little fun here, after a couple of serious posts about the Trans Pacific Partnership - which may be dead in the water anyway, as the latest proposed talks in Guam later in May may have been cancelled. But has anyone else noticed how so many people involved in trade (and food trade) have names that really makes you wonder - could these people do anything but support trade agreements? Also, there are others on my list that I admire. Oh well, without further ado-ado-ado (famous quote from ABBA), here we go:


Trade Minister Tim Groser says he is not bothered that his name has apparently become a byword for undiplomatic behaviour. The Labour Party today accused him in Parliament of insulting Canadian diplomats by comparing the country's dairy industry to the Soviet Union.

Trade spokesman David Parker cited a scathing article by an American policy analyst, which said Mr Groser's behaviour had led to a new slang term in Washington: "Grossing".

The article said the Canadian Embassy in Washington was "privately bristling" at the minister's "counter-productive, undiplomatic sledging". Mr Groser said he was not aware his name had been turned into a verb, but added that it could be evidence that New Zealand was "making a mark" with its negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership. He said that Canada's dairy interests had been "diametrically opposed" to New Zealand's interests for 30 years, and it took "just a little bit of spine to stand up to it".

Mr Parker said Mr Groser's comments were "abrasive and arrogant". "How does he think slagging off the Canadians using derogatory terms is going to result in a good outcome for those negotiations?" Mr Parker asked.

Mr Groser stood firm: "It's called a negotiation. And to use one of Tana Umaga's memorable phrases, 'We ain't here to play tiddlywinks'."

The minister made the comments in an interview with Reuters when he was in the US for trade talks last month.

He said that Canada's highly protected dairy industry "looks like it belongs in the former Soviet Union".

He urged Canada to open up its markets and "start to engage in a serious way" on the TPP.

Canada, which has about 13,000 dairy farmers, applies tariffs of more than 200 per cent on dairy imports.




In a statement, Marion Gross, senior vice-president of North America supply chain, said that McDonald's "believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care and our suppliers will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics".




Mr. Portman backed a series of sweeping trade deals, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, and went on to serve as President George W. Bush’s top trade negotiator.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/ohio-depicts-trade-deals-complexity-1424651356


In March of this year, U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the fourth version of her Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ban non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in food animal production.


Trade Minister Andrew Robb has hosed down fears the price of medicines will skyrocket with the signing of what has been dubbed the world's largest free trade deal, saying it is "not the intention or the outcome". 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.


Rob Fish, chairman of the Northern Territory Seafood Council, said many NT restaurants moved to selling local product once the new rules for menus were cast.


Representative Jeff Flake, a Republican, introduced two other cotton-focused amendments. One of them would cut direct payments by the same amount necessary to fund the Brazil Cotton Institute in fiscal year 2013 - i.e. by US$147.3 million. This would effectively take the burden of supporting the Brazil Cotton Institute off taxpayers and put it on cotton farmers.



A “fry-up” pie should be banned from a hospital canteen, says a food expert. The £1.50 “heart attack on a plate” is crammed with bacon, sausage, black pudding and beans, with an egg on top. It is being sold at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, where doctors fight to save stroke and heart attack victims. Prof Mike Lean, former government adviser, and chair of human nutrition at Glasgow University, said it was a “shocking” example of a meal, adding: “It should never be anywhere near a hospital. It is laden with fat, salt and without a vegetable in sight. There should be strict guidelines for all food sold in hospitals.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11054202/Hospital-canteens-fry-up-pie-is-heart-attack-on-a-plate.html


Agricultural consultant Steve Savage accused Dow's opponents of resorting to scare tactics, writing on his blog, Applied Mythology, that what the victims of Agent Orange "don't deserve is to have their tragedy exploited in an irresponsible way."


Source: Huffington Post 'Agent Orange Corn' Debate Rages As Dow Seeks Approval Of New Genetically Modified Seed


And last but not least, who can forget (drum roll):

Bernie Madoff – economic swindler (he infamously “made off” with people’s money…)

Got any more good ones, anyone...?

Update 1: Oh, and I forgot to mention Akira Amari, Japan's chief negotiator to the TPP, born 1949. The kanji of his last name are 甘利 or "Sweet, coax, pamper" and "Advantage, benefit, profit, interest..." "Mr. Sweet Profit," then?"

Update 2: This one is almost too good to be true. The US has just lost a major food labelling case in the World Trade Organization, as Canada and Mexico argued that the US Country of Origin labels for meat were a trade barrier. In fact, much of the US meat industry also wanted the mandatory labels repealed. And it only took the House of Representatives 2 days to go along with industry. And who is in charge? A certain Mr. Conaway from Texas. Con the consumers away!

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, has long backed the meat industry's call for repeal. Along with several of his colleagues, he introduced the legislation to repeal the labeling requirements hours after the WTO decision. He said the bill is a "targeted" response.
http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/05/20/house-to-consider-repeal-of-meat-labeling-law 

More suggestions, please!
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

For The Record - Why Japanese People Have No Right To Know About TPP?


Chastened vice minister retracts comment about disclosing TPP documents

May 11, 2015
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
A senior vice minister has retracted his statement about disclosing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement after a tongue-lashing from his superiors.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office, said May 4, "We want to coordinate matters so that (legislators in Japan) can also access (the TPP) text from next week."
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was furious when he heard about Nishimura's comment and, according to government sources, retorted, "On what authority did he make that statement?"
Nishimura's immediate superior, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of TPP negotiations, said at a May 8 news conference, "(Nishimura) made a comment that led to a misunderstanding because of his desire to respond in a careful manner to opposition party Diet members."
"There are systematic differences between Japan and the United States, so the matter cannot be handled in the same way," said a contrite Nishimura at a May 7 news conference in Los Angeles. "I apologize for the poor manner in which I made my intentions known."
In the United States, U.S. senators and representatives can view the proposed TPP draft.
Amari explained May 8 that the system is different in the United States to that of Japan. U.S. legislators can face criminal charges if they leak certain information.
"It would be impossible to do the same thing that is being done in the United States," Amari said. "We need to give this matter more thought."
The participants in the TPP negotiations are obligated to protect the confidentiality of the talks. That is a major difference from negotiations within the World Trade Organization, where the various drafts being discussed are released at the appropriate junctures.
The conditions for disclosing documents related to the TPP negotiations were relaxed in March after calls in the United States for greater disclosure.
The U.S. trade representative's office has begun allowing the TPP drafts to be viewed by not only members of the U.S. Congress, but also in some cases by their staff. Officials connected to the major companies and industrial interest groups sitting on a U.S. government advisory panel are also allowed to view the documents. Among the companies on that government panel are Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Nike Inc.
In Japan, the government has released summaries of the negotiations to political parties and business organizations.
For example, a seven-page summary of the negotiations was released May 1 explaining that talks had concluded on 10 of the 29 chapters in the TPP draft. The actual draft runs to several hundreds of pages.
In April, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party jointly submitted a bill that calls on the government to report on trade negotiations, including the TPP, at closed-door sessions of special committees in the Diet.
The government is anything but keen about passing such legislation.

(This article was written by Daisuke Igarashi in Washington and Hitoshi Kujiraoka and Go Kobayashi in Tokyo.)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Meanwhile, over in Europe, where they are facing similar challenges, the texts of the deals are made public. Not everything at once, but still, why wouldn't Japan get at least the same degree of transparency, if it tried?

BBC:

A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC.
The document describes itself as the EU's "initial offer" in negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).
It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation.
Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.
The 103-page document is headed "trade in services and investment: schedule of specific commitments and reservations".
It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

On health, the document states: "The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form".
The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).
The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured "publicly funded health services are excluded".
The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.
But Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal.

She said: "I think this issue has to be put beyond any doubt.
"Our NHS is not for sale and TTIP must have a clear and explicit exclusion for the National Health Service."
The trade union Unite said "real risks" remained because of the dispute resolution mechanism TTIP is expected to include.
The union's Scottish regional secretary, Pat Rafferty said: "Last week Lord Livingston tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the Scottish people.
"Now this leaked document has confirmed Unite's expert legal advice, that NHS services in Scotland and the rest of the UK do fall within the scope of the TTIP.






So, Why Did Japanese Lawmakers Not Get To Read The TPP Text?

Because, Japan doesn't have the legislation that would make it illegal to reveal what the trade negotiations entail. There would be leaks. Big protest planned for May 26: More updates on twitter, (J) tppfes

This TPP involves consumer issues such as food labels and safety standards, environmental standards, labour rules, access to medicines, and a lot of other important issues that you would expect national lawmakers in any parliament or congress or diet to care about. These are the very rules that these "lawmakers" make promises about when they try to get elected. Jobs, economy, food safety, rural development - rather than promoting profits for multinational corporations (that do not pay taxes). But they don't tell voters that deals are made secretly.

You are not to supposed to be able to influence the details of such trade deals, NAFTA, KOFTA/KORUS (Korea US) etc.

On Saturday night, amid a biting February wind, protesters chanted, "Annul Korea-U.S. FTA!" and "Stop the effectuation!" As speakers and celebrities voiced their opposition, the crowd held up signs reading "FTA is pro-plutocrat, anti-democracy, anti-labor, anti-welfare. It will kill South Korean economy and the masses" and "Be mournful, Be angry! The U.S. colonization of South Korea has started!"

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/05/national/politics-diplomacy/diet-members-may-get-access-tpp-deal-text-conclusion-official-says/#.VVtbVef9BkY

“We’ll make preparations to allow lawmakers access to the text next week” at the earliest, Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office, told reporters Monday in Washington.

Did not happen.

Case in point 1:

Japan says hard to hold TPP ministerial talks without U.S. fast-track bill
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/05/19/uk-japan-economy-amari-idUKKBN0O408Z20150519

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Tuesday it is becoming "extremely difficult" to hold ministerial talks on a Pacific trade pact unless a fast-track bill is passed in the United States.

Approval of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives would give momentum to negotiations on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)trade deal.

"TPP talks won't be concluded unless the TPA bill is passed," Amari told a news conference adding he is hoping for a swift passage of the bill in the United States.

"It is becoming an extremely difficult situation as to whether ministerial talks will be held."


Isn't that just great (sarcasm). You can't make rules that affect everyone in Japan unless lawmakers in the Senate and Congress in Washington make up their minds, first.

Case in point 2:

Michael Wessel: I’ve Read Obama’s Secret Trade Deal. Elizabeth Warren Is Right to Be Concerned.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor
118068.html#ixzz3aaKTMw5O


You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago,” a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what's hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

So-called “cleared advisors” like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist.

What I can tell you is that the administration is being unfair to those who are raising proper questions about the harms the TPP would do. To the administration, everyone who questions their approach is branded as a protectionist—or worse—dishonest. They broadly criticize organized labor, despite the fact that unions have been the primary force in America pushing for strong rules to promote opportunity and jobs. And they dismiss individuals like me who believe that, first and foremost, a trade agreement should promote the interests of domestic producers and their employees.

I’ve been deeply involved in trade policy for almost four decades. For 21 years, I worked for former Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt and handled all trade policy issues including “fast track,” the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Uruguay Round, which is the largest trade agreement in history. I am also a consultant to various domestic producers and the United Steelworkers union, for whom I serve as a cleared advisor on two trade advisory committees. To top it off, I was a publicly acknowledged advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008.

Obama may no longer be listening to my advice, but Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren might as well be. Warren, of course, has been perhaps the deal’s most vocal critic, but even the more cautious Clinton has raised the right questions on what a good TPP would look like. Her spokesman, Nick Merrill, said: “She will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas. As she warned in her book Hard Choices, we shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers.”

On this count, the current TPP doesn’t measure up. And nothing being considered by Congress right now would ensure that the TPP meets the goal of promoting domestic production and job creation.

The text of the TPP, like all trade deals, is a closely guarded secret. That fact makes a genuine public debate impossible and should make robust debate behind closed doors all the more essential. But the ability of TPP critics like me to point out the deal’s many failings is limited by the government’s surprising and unprecedented refusal to make revisions to the language in the TPP fully available to cleared advisors.

Bill Clinton didn’t operate like this. During the debate on NAFTA, as a cleared advisor for the Democratic leadership, I had a copy of the entire text in a safe next to my desk and regularly was briefed on the specifics of the negotiations, including counterproposals made by Mexico and Canada. During the TPP negotiations, the  United States Trade Representative (USTR) has never shared proposals being advanced by other TPP partners. Today’s consultations are, in many ways, much more restrictive than those under past administrations.

All advisors, and any liaisons, are required to have security clearances, which entail extensive paperwork and background investigations, before they are able to review text and participate in briefings. But, despite clearances, and a statutory duty to provide advice, advisors do not have access to all the materials that a reasonable person would need to do the job. The negotiators provide us with “proposals” but those are merely initial proposals to trading partners. We are not allowed to see counter-proposals from our trading partners. Often, advisors are provided with updates indicating that the final text will balance all appropriate stakeholder interests but we frequently receive few additional details beyond that flimsy assurance.

Those details have enormous repercussions. For instance, rules of origin specify how much of a product must originate within the TPP countries for the resulting product to be eligible for duty-free treatment. These are complex rules that decide where a company will manufacture its products and where is will purchase raw materials. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 62.5 percent of a car needed to originate within NAFTA countries. In the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, it was lowered to 50 percent. It further dropped to 35 percent in the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). In essence, under our agreement with Korea, 65 percent of a car from South Korea could be made from Chinese parts and still qualify for duty-free treatment when exported to the U.S.

That fact is politically toxic, and for that reason, we should expect the TPP agreement to have higher standards. But will it reach the 62.5 percent NAFTA requirement? Or will it be only a slight improvement over KORUS? Without access to the final text of the agreement, it’s impossible to say.

State-owned enterprises may, for the first time, be addressed in the TPP. But, once again, the details are not clear. Will exemptions be provided to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, all of which could be heavily impacted by such a rule? What will be the test to determine what is or is not acceptable behavior? Will injury be required to occur over a substantial period of time, or will individual acts of non-commercial, damaging trade practices be actionable? Again, it’s impossible to say for sure.

Advisors are almost flying blind on these questions and others.


Did Japanese media give you any such clues to why TPP may be bad for consumers and business?

Case in point 3:

Big event in Tokyo to protest against TPP at Yoyogi Park on May 26 (Tue) from 15:30 to 20:30 with music, speeches, parade to Shibuya, and more. People in Japan have been an integral part of the global protests for a long time, a chronicled by the Another Japan Is Possible, by Jennifer Chan and so many others (check out Ten Thousand Things and Japan Focus/The Asia Pacific Journal). PARC and Consumers Union of Japan also have websites with records from a long legacy of activism. Why did Japanese elected lawmakers not make more of a fuzz and complain when they cannot read the TPP texts? They know that in Washington, some of their colleges are able to read the proposed rules. Are they not able to reach out and talk to any of them?

Case in point 4The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Deeply Flawed Partnership

The American people have become used to government trickery in foreign affairs—wars and interventions based on lies and falsified evidence, “national security” used to justify the whittling away of privacy, classification of documents to hide embarrassing disclosures, massaging of budget figures to mask outrageous spending on arms, and demands for new weapons when already in possession of an unmatched conventional and nuclear arsenal.

Now comes trickery in a different domain: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has substantial bipartisan support and strong presidential endorsement.  Eleven countries1 are awaiting the outcome in Congress as President Obama seeks approval to put the TPP on a “fast track,” meaning skipping hearings, public input, and amendments and going directly to an up-or-down vote after 90 days to review.  Once passed, the TPP will do for US corporations operating in Asia what the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) did for them in Canada and Mexico—provide new incentives to send jobs abroad, increase corporate earnings, and downgrade protections of the environment and workers at home as well as abroad.


Case in point 5: WikiLeaks and the Release of the Secret TPP Environment Report ウイキリークス流出のTPP秘密環境報告 


...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.

WikiLeaks also reveals disagreement regarding marine capture fisheries and fish products, including a proposal about overfishing and overcapacity. The leaked text has provisions that might help deal with fisheries bycatch. As a free trade agreement, the aim is to make it more difficult for governments to control corporate interests, for example by limiting investments in ever larger fishing ships. But Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia cannot agree to the language on bycatch as it is currently drafted. Shark fins is one such product that some countries are trying to make illegal. Over-fishing of Pacific Bluefin tuna is another issue that is managed by governments through negotiations, in a complex process that should not be undermined by TPP. The language on fisheries subsidies only say that countries “shall make best efforts to refrain” from introducing new subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. If TPP can do no better than hoping that countries make “best efforts”, that is, if it fails to establish guidelines to prevent overfishing that threatens endangered species, it seems futile to hope that international trade in fish and fish products will become more sustainable.

Biological diversity is another area of contention due to the United States failure to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – due in turn to pressure from its biotech industry, which saw the Convention as a direct threat to the introduction of patented genetically modified organisms around the world. As for conservation, which includes a reference to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international agreement among governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and precious plants does not threaten their survival, Japan and all other negotiating parties remain opposed to the US proposals in the TPP.


 



Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Aid Kit: Amerika

Swedish duo, here is Simon & Garfunkel's amazing tune, their take on it.

I did some Greyhound travels back in my days. Almost got mugged at the bus station toilet in Albany, NY. Loved New England. Most of it. Wow, this takes me way back.

I have American friends who say Japan is the only country you can hitchhike in, these days.

Klara Söderberg – vocals, guitar: 2007 -
Johanna Söderberg – vocals, keyboards, autoharp: 2007 -
Melvin Duffy – pedal steel guitar: 2013 -
Scott Simpson – drums: January 14, 2015 (first concert) -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Aid_Kit_%28band%29

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

TPP - No News In Japan?

The huge issue for the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations was - would the US get fast track authorization, and since that did not happen, what's next? Not a singe comment on Jiji or NHK on Wednesday, that's pretty telling.

The Japanese government must be absolutely lost, what to do next. Embarrassing, indeed. No official comment from the US's most enthusiastic and fawning partner, this side of the pacific?

Even Malaysia has managed to produce a comment:

TPPA negotiations to proceed sans US senate support to finalise agreement
13 May 2015, New Straits Times,
http://www.nst.com.my/node/84120

JOHOR BARU: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations involving 12 countries will still proceed even though the United States (US) has not received the support of its Senate to continue talks to finalise the agreement.

International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, Datuk Hamim Samuri, said each participating country in the negotiations must have their own individual issues that they wanted to safeguard.

“For certain, all countries (that are involved) have their own individual issues...that is normal. We are still at the negotiation stage,” he told reporters after launching the ‘Exporters Forum 2015’ at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre here, today.

Hamim said this when commenting on the latest report that stated the US had failed to secure the support of the Senate to continue with the negotiations in order to finalise the TPPA.

It was reported that the future of the TPPA may be affected with President Barack Obama failing to secure Senate support to advance Fast Track Authority to a full debate and vote in Congress.

Following that, it could lead to uncertainty especially as the TPPA ministers are expected to meet in Guam starting May 26 on expectation that they could finalise the negotiations.

Hamim said todate Malaysia’s stand remained, and any decision would only be decided by the Cabinet.

“Malaysia todate still maintains the terms that we strive for (among others) the interests of Bumiputeras and small industries, medication issues and others.

“We are still firm on this. Our negotiators bring this mandate in every negotiation and no decision is made without the approval of the Cabinet,” he said.

Early last month, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, said Malaysia would make a decision on its participation in the TPPA in the third quarter of this year after all the negotiations were completed.

The TPPA negotiation process, which has been going on for the last five years, is expected to complete by the first half of 2015. TPP is a free trade agreement initiative among 12 countries, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam, involving a market of 800 million people with a combined gross domestic product worth US$27.5 trillion.

So far, more than 100 discussions and negotiations were held over the last few years by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to increase the level of understanding on the contents of the negotiations.

Up to April this year, the negotiations for 10 out of 29 chapters of the TPPA had been finalised, 10 were in the process of finalisation while nine others still needed more efforts such as international property ownership rights, environment, state-owned enterprises, investment as well as financial services. – Bernama

--00--

Similar article in the Malaysian Insider:
Trans-Pacific trade talks to proceed without US Senate support, says deputy minister
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/trans-pacific-trade-talks-to-proceed-without-us-senate-support-says-deputy


Update 1 from New Zealand:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/world/273502/vote-in-us-senate-hits-hopes-for-tpp

The US Senate has voted not to give President Barack Obama so-called trade promotion authority, which would make it much easier for the US to fast-track its agreement to the deal.

The TPP requires the joint agreement of 12 countries, including New Zealand and Australia.

Senators voted 52-45 in favour of opening debate on a bill to allow trade promotion authority but fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass the motion.

The proposal was defeated mainly by the opposition of members of Mr Obama's own party, the Democrats, who wanted to add measures to protect US workers and prevent currency manipulation.

Washington correspondent Lorna Shaddick told Morning Report the setback was embarrassing for the president.

"The TPA [trade promotion authority] itself isn't dead; it just means that debate isn't being opened on it in Congress," she said.

"They'll have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the legislation to try and redraw it in a way that is acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans to get it through the Senate, and then through the House."

Trade promotion authority would limit lawmakers to taking only a 'yes' or 'no' vote on any eventual trade deal without any power to amend it.

Ms Shaddick said an agreement between countries on the TPP was unlikely to be reached until negotiators knew that the free trade deal would pass in the US.

"President Obama may have to accept certain provisions in the [TPA] legislation in order to get it through the Senate, that he doesn't necessarily want, but those same provisions might in fact doom the negotiations that this legislation is supposed to boost. So - certainly some problems ahead for TPA and for TPP."

Listen to Washington correspondent Lorna Shaddick on Morning Report ( 4 min 48 sec )

The setback may spell an end to any likelihood of the US being able to sign up to the TPP before the next presidential election in late-2016.

New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser, who had earlier suggested a deal on the TPP could be reached by mid-2015, said he was concerned at today's vote result.

Mr Groser said the hope had been to reach agreement on the "fundamental political deal" before the spring break in Washington at the beginning of August.

"Everybody - certainly my team and myself - believed they had to pass this legislation for us to enter into what we call the end-game negotiation," he said.

"The best you can say about it is that it's going to cause a delay in that process."


Isn't it just crazy that all kinds of laws and rules here in Japan and in all kinds of countries now depend on however the lawmakers in the United States happen to vote, this way or not?


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TPP In The News: No Disclosure, No Benefits

Unless the US passes Fast Track legislation, the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations are going nowhere, fast. According to a Japanese government briefing, only 10 out of 29 of the chapters have been completed after how many years of talks? Later this May, we'll have more talks in Guam, then possibly a proper round in the Philippines. The last round was in Brunei, which I attended as a "stakeholder" in August 2013. That was the nineteenth negotiation round, so not much progress seems to have been made, since then.

There has not yet been a single proper TPP round of negotiations held here in Japan.

More worryingly, while US legislators get to see the TPP texts, here in Japan, that is not going to happen.

The Asahi: Chastened vice minister retracts comment about disclosing TPP documents

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201505110021

A senior vice minister has retracted his statement about disclosing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement after a tongue-lashing from his superiors.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office, said May 4, "We want to coordinate matters so that (legislators in Japan) can also access (the TPP) text from next week."

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was furious when he heard about Nishimura's comment and, according to government sources, retorted, "On what authority did he make that statement?"

Nishimura's immediate superior, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of TPP negotiations, said at a May 8 news conference, "(Nishimura) made a comment that led to a misunderstanding because of his desire to respond in a careful manner to opposition party Diet members."

"There are systematic differences between Japan and the United States, so the matter cannot be handled in the same way," said a contrite Nishimura at a May 7 news conference in Los Angeles. "I apologize for the poor manner in which I made my intentions known."

In the United States, U.S. senators and representatives can view the proposed TPP draft.

Amari explained May 8 that the system is different in the United States to that of Japan. U.S. legislators can face criminal charges if they leak certain information.

"It would be impossible to do the same thing that is being done in the United States," Amari said. "We need to give this matter more thought."

The participants in the TPP negotiations are obligated to protect the confidentiality of the talks. That is a major difference from negotiations within the World Trade Organization, where the various drafts being discussed are released at the appropriate junctures.

The conditions for disclosing documents related to the TPP negotiations were relaxed in March after calls in the United States for greater disclosure.

The U.S. trade representative's office has begun allowing the TPP drafts to be viewed by not only members of the U.S. Congress, but also in some cases by their staff. Officials connected to the major companies and industrial interest groups sitting on a U.S. government advisory panel are also allowed to view the documents. Among the companies on that government panel are Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Nike Inc.

In Japan, the government has released summaries of the negotiations to political parties and business organizations.

For example, a seven-page summary of the negotiations was released May 1 explaining that talks had concluded on 10 of the 29 chapters in the TPP draft. The actual draft runs to several hundreds of pages.

In April, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party jointly submitted a bill that calls on the government to report on trade negotiations, including the TPP, at closed-door sessions of special committees in the Diet.

The government is anything but keen about passing such legislation.






Japan Inc wary of Pacific trade pact amid competition fears-poll
http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSL3N0WJ1JB20150317?irpc=932

Japan Inc wary of Pacific trade pact amid competition fears-poll

TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters)

Japanese companies are wary of a 12-nation Pacific trade deal now in the works, with three-quarters not expecting their sales to benefit if an agreement is reached, a Reuters poll showed.

Only a quarter expect sales to increase if a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact is realised, while 2 percent fear they will be negatively affected, according to the Reuters Corporate Survey released on Tuesday.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would link a dozen Asia-Pacific economies by eliminating trade barriers and harmonising regulations, in a pact covering 40 percent of the world economy and a third of all global trade.

But talks, aimed at realising a deal this year, have been bogged down as negotiators struggle to find common ground over opening up key sectors including autos and agriculture.

Indeed, about half of Japanese firms in the survey worry a trade deal would bring about fierce competition with products and services from overseas, while a quarter are concerned about the loss of consumer information and intellectual property.

Overall, just 1 percent expect their sales would benefit to a large extent from the trade deal.

The survey of 483 companies was conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research between March 3 and March 16.





Massive Coalition of Japanese Organizations Campaigns Against TPP Copyright Provisions

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/03/massive-coalition-japanese-organizations-campaign-against-tpp-copyright-provisions

"We are deeply concerned about this situation in which important decisions for our nation’s culture and society are being made behind closed doors" reads a joint public statement from Japanese activists who are fighting the copyright provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A group of artists, archivists, academics, and activists, have joined forces in Japan to call on their negotiators to oppose requirements in the TPP that would require their country, and five of the other 11 nations negotiating this secretive agreement, to expand their copyright terms to match the United States' already excessive length of copyright.

Negotiators have reportedly agreed to set their copyright terms to the length of an author's life plus 70 years. Since the news was leaked, there has been growing opposition among Japanese users, artists, and fans against this copyright expansion—which is nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Law" there due to Disney's heavy lobbying that led to the copyright extension in the United States nearly two decades ago. The issue gained substantial awareness when prominent Japanese copyright lawyer, Kensaku Fukui, wrote a blog post about the TPP's threats to Japanese Internet users and culture that went viral a month ago.

Then in a widely-covered public press event last week, representatives of the Japanese digital rights organizations, MIAU, Creative Commons Japan, and thinkC, presented a joint statement endorsed by 63 organizations and businesses that describes the threats that the TPP's copyright provisions would pose to Japan's culture. The event was also streamed online, where over 15,000 users tuned in to watch. Several creators, including playwright Oriza Hirata, cartoonist Ken Akamatsu, journalist Daisuke Tsuda, and Yu Okubo of the online digital archive, Aozora Bunko, and others, joined the announcement to support the campaign against over-restrictive copyright rules in the TPP. In their presentation, they discussed how lengthy copyright leads to a massive orphan works problem and an environment that make cultural archiving and preservation exponentially more difficult.

In addition to opposing lengthy copyright terms, the anime and fan-art community are also concerned about the TPP's criminal enforcement provisions. There is a particular section that says that "competent authorities may act upon their own initiative to initiate a legal action without the need for a formal complaint" by the copyright holder. The fear is that this would lead to a major crackdown on derivative works, including written or drawn fan fiction, recorded music covers of songs, or cosplayers, who may upload photos of themselves dressed as characters. These are all elements of Japan's thriving “otaku” culture, which has spread around the world and brought in millions of dollars for Japanese creators. Japan does not have a U.S.-style fair use system, in which there are flexibilities for uses based upon the nature, purpose, amount, and effect of the use on the market for the original copyrighted work. So Japanese fans could be criminally liable for their work if any "competent authority" can claim that a derivative work constitutes criminal copyright infringement. This would have a huge chilling effect on vibrant communities of fan fiction that exist on Japanese websites.

Both the copyright term expansion and the non-complaint provision previously failed to pass in Japan because they were so controversial. Now that we at least know for certain that copyright extensions could pass in the TPP, the media there is finally taking notice. The organizers made national news as major Japanese news outlets covered the event.

We are thrilled to see this issue get such mainstream attention in Japan, and support their statement calling on negotiators to remove all controversial copyright provisions from the TPP, including the copyright term extensions, criminal enforcement, anti-circumvention of DRM, intermediary liability, and others. The EFF is also working alongside the Fair Deal Coalition, the international coalition of digital rights groups from TPP-negotiating nations, to create a project to fight the TPP copyright extensions. Stay tuned for this new global effort to stop the TPP from capturing more of our valuable shared culture through the trap of copyright's restrictions.

---

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Ramsar Sites

Good news, possibly some important wetlands may get protection, if they make it as Ramsar Convention sites. One in particular, in Ibaraki Prefecure, could help protect the habitat of the Oowashi, Steller's eagle, in Swedish, Jättehavsörn.

Lake Hinuma: I have been there a number of times, thanks to Pandabonium, who insists on sailing his Lido in that area, and it is a lovely place.

Hope these great eagles will get all the protection they may get, that lake is such a sweet spot.

About the Oowashi eagle, this is a huge bird of prey:

This bird nests in two habitats: along sea coasts and alongside large rivers with mature trees. They nest on large, rocky outcroppings or at the tops of large trees. On Hokkaido, eagles concentrate in coastal areas and on lakes near the coast, along with substantial numbers of white-tailed eagles. Eagles depart between late March and late April, adults typically leaving before immatures. Migrants tend to follow sea coasts and are usually observed flying singly. In groups, migrants are typically observed flying 100–200 m (330–660 ft) apart. On Kamchatka, most migrants are birds in transitional plumages. They are also occasionally seen flying over the Northern ocean or perching on sea ice during the winter. They are legally protected, being classified as a National Treasure in Japan and mostly occurring in protected areas in Russia. However, many threats to their survival persist. These mainly include habitat alteration, industrial pollution and over-fishing, which in turn decreases their prey source. The current population is estimated at 5,000, and declining.



Japan has pitched four wetland areas, including one in Ibaraki Prefecture that is home to a rare species of eagle, for recognition under the Ramsar Convention.
The Environment Ministry recommended to its Central Environment Council’s wild animal subcommittee on April 22 that the areas be included as candidates for the Ramsar Convention, a global treaty for the conservation of important wetlands around the world.
The four wetland areas in Japan are expected to be officially included as recognized sites at the meeting for the contracting parties to be held in June in Uruguay.
The wetlands chosen as Ramsar sites are: the Hinuma area in Ibaraki Prefecture that is home to the rare Steller’s sea eagle; the Yoshigadaira group of wetlands in Gunma Prefecture that has a natural environment formed by volcanic activity; and the Higashiyoka mudflat and Hizen-Kashima mudflat, both in Saga Prefecture.
The ministry also decided to substantially expand the recognized area of waters of Okinawa Prefecture's Kerama Islands, which are already included in the treaty.

Here in Japan, Ramsar areas are regarded as important and cannot easily be challenged. Quoting international conventions, we can make a difference. Locally, development issues can be brought to the attention, and global rules can be applied. Your small lake or river may be an important part of a much larger waterway, connected to all kinds of efforts to save biodiversity. Don't let that local planning authority pave over your precious ditch, if you think it is connected to something more important...

Thus, as the new Shinkansen train route made headlines recently, they may have to be re-routed:

Shinkansen extension beyond Kanazawa may be changed to ease impact on protected wetland
Kyodo
The Hokuriku Shinkansen Line’s planned route beyond Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, will probably be changed to avoid harming an important wetland area in Fukui Prefecture, the government-backed builder of the bullet train system said.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Earh Day Tokyo 2015

Time again for the greatest environmental festival in town. Each year, Earth Day celebrates food and farming, the forest and the ocean, and all the good people (and animals). Performances and music all weekend long in Yoyogi, and it promises to be a particularly sunny party this year. Yes, Peace!

More info (J)

This year, there is also a more political side to the events, with a Peace Parade starting on Saturday, 14:00 going through the busy commercial streets of Shibuya and Harajuku. Arranged by among others Parc and A Seed Japan, as part of the global action day, People and Planet, Before Profits. And at 18:00, there will be a candle night event for peace.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22: Large Demonstration and Parade Against Abe in Tokyo




I went to the large demonstration today at Hibiya in central Tokyo and in the warm, sunny weather, some 10,000 people showed up for the parade to surround the Parliament Building (Diet) - Japan's Palace of Westminster or Capitol Hill...

Update: Kyodo (J) has the number of participants today as 14,000.

The event was also billed as the "Democracy Convention 2015" in English.

If you have ever been to a large demonstration elsewhere, prepare yourself for the utter control here in Japan. Police and riot vans are everywhere, but as long as things go smoothly, like today, you can bring your baby stroller and your grandma... The organizers are committed to peaceful protests and so be it.

But, that may not be the way Japan's Public Security Intelligence Agency sees things, according to Eric Johnston in The Japan Times: Security blanket: Should Japan beef up its anti-terrorism measures?

Great coalition of hundreds of groups for solidarity with Okinawa and labour rights, against TPP, hate speech and nuclear power plants - and much more. It was also a massive display of support for democracy and Article 9, the peace clause in Japan's constitution, that Prime Minister Abe is trying to change.

English info: http://abe-no.net/?page_id=174
Refuse Abe!
Reclaim our Democracy!
Mar. 22,
13:00 Hibiya Open-air Concert Hall
14:00 Petition Rally, Demo & Parade to surround the Parliament Building (Diet)

【Place】
Hibiya Open-air Concert Hall
Around the Diet
To submit a petition to the Parliament members at the same time as surrounding the Diet building.

【Organizer】
Committee for the 0322 Rally against the Abe administration.

【Office】
Metropolitan Coalition against Nukes
National Network for Abolishing Nuclear Power Plants
PARC, Pacific Asia Resource Center

【Organizers】
SEALS: Student Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy
TDC: Tokyo Democracy Crew
Citizens’ Group for Examining State Secrecy Law
Committee for the Wakamono Rally for Constitution
C.R.A.C.: Counter-Racist Action Collective
TA4AD: Tokyo Action for Anti-Discrimination
Lawyers for Civil Action in front of the Diet
JLAF: Japan Lawyers Association for Freedom
Lawyer’s Network Against TPP
SHOKKENREN: National Coalition of Workers, Farmers and Consumers for
Safe Food and Health, Japan
Japan’s Federation of Women’s Organizations
Beer and Cafe BERG Shinjuku
NOUMINREN: Japan Family Farmers’ Movement
MIN-IREN: Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions
Federation of Commercial and Industrial Institutions
ZENROREN: National Confederation of Trade Unions
Tokyo Regional Council of Trade Unions
New Japan Women’s Association
ZEN-NOH ROREN: National Federation of Trade Unions of Agricultural Cooperative Associations in Japan

【Statement】
Concerns are mounting that the second Abe administration has been
reestablishing the political characteristics of the pre-1945 Japanese
government. Most recently, Prime Minister Abe capitalized on the ISIS
hostage crisis to argue that Japan should be ready to send Self Defense
Forces abroad, while it is widely known that the administration’s
military and confrontational stance against ISIS has aggravated the
situation. The combination of hawkish policy and neglect of human lives
seems to be a consistent pattern of this administration. From the
macro-economic measures which pander to the big business at the cost of
increasing poverty, to the unwillingness to deal with the proliferation
of hate speech in the civil society, people’s wish to live in peace and
stability is increasingly dismissed by the administration’s policies.

The enemy unites us. Too often, Abe disregards public opinion against
his ill-conceived proposals and does not even hesitate to sidestep
democratic parliamentary procedures to advance policies representing the
interests of the powerful and the rich. In this circumstance, it has
become evident to the organizers working with different issues in our
society, such as nuclear power plants, collective defense,
constitutional amendments, US base in Okinawa, State Secrecy Law, TPP,
consumption tax, welfare, labor, and agriculture, that none of these
issues can be handled democratically without ousting Prime Minister Abe
from office.

With the municipal elections in April coming up close, it is high time
we deliver the Abe administration a strong and clear message that we
will not take it anymore. We must reclaim our democracy from those who
dismiss people’s voice. On March 22nd, in Hibiya, let us be a massive
crowd and tell Shinzo Abe that his clique of dictatorial aspirations
does not represent us because we are a democracy.




Thursday, March 19, 2015

Our Wishes (1970)

"The Things We Desire" or "Our Wishes" is a song by Nobuyasu Okabayashi from July, 1970. It is also about what we do not want.
We do not wish to live and suffer, what we wish is to live to enjoy...
We do not wish to live for the sake of society, what we wish is a society, for us...
We do not wish to be awarded, what we wish is to grab it by ourselves...
We do not wish to kill you, what we wish is to live together with you
Not for the unhappiness we feel, but for the joy yet to come...

Here are two versions:



Live, with his band, Happy End:


               


                                                                   

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Have They Done To The Rain (1964)

50 years ago, nuclear bombs were still being tested in the atmosphere, but increasingly, the concern about the radiation fallout ended that horrible practice. 50 years later we still have a few countries that won't give up their nuclear arsenal, and others (including Japan and South Korea) hiding under the so-called nuclear umbrella. Others, like Sweden and South Africa, briefly considered going nuclear, in order to stay independent, as sovereign states. In most - if not  all- the countries that produced nuclear weapons, those are now getting very old and dangerous - and obsolete. Meanwhile nuclear power remains the big question mark for mankind. We need to more clearly see the links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Here is a wonderful song from 1964, by the UK band The Searchers. Song originally written by Malvina Reynolds, and later also recorded by Joan Baez. Here in Japan, the initial contamination from the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdowns spread through rain in March, 2011. Time for a new generation of bands and singers to step up the call for peace on earth?


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Organic Agriculture Conference in Tokyo, GMO Free Zone Meeting In Kumamoto, Osaka Action Meeting Against Takahama Nuclear Plant...

Care for healthy food and want to join the discussion how to make it better, here in Japan...

Busy weekend!

How about joining the Japan Organic Agriculture Association conference in Tokyo this weekend? JOAA is the oldest organic group in Japan, founded in 1970. They are known abroad for their work promoting teikei, which is a system to connect farmers and consumers. While similar schemes have evolved in other countries, like the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) trend, teikei is about more - how agriculture can support communities.

I will speak in a panel on Sunday March 8, but there is a lot to do and enjoy during the 2 days, including films and seminars by Japanese organic farmers and experts. For more, check out the JOAA website about teikei (E) and details about the conference (J) on March 7-8, 2015 at the Kokugakuin University in Shibuya. Tema: Healthy food and soil for our children.

If you are in Kumamoto, you can attend the GMO Free Zone Meeting on Saturday March 7. This is the 10th such event and everyone in Kyushu will be there. Last year's meeting was in Tochigi prefecture, and the movement is just getting bigger. From 13:30 - 17:00 at the Aso Villa Park Hotel. Details here (J) and here (J).

This is part of a huge global trend to focus on farmers' rights and to support consumers who do not want genetically modified organisms (GMO) if they learn what it entails. Green Co-op and other Kyushu groups join the No! GMO Campaign and Consumers Union of Japan, and many others, while corporations like Ajinomoto are involved in GM research. Read more in English over at the GMO-Free Regions Website (E).

And if you are in Kansai, you can join the Osaka meeting (and live & parade) to protest against the controversial Takahama Nuclear Plant on March 8, at the Kita-ku Civic Center from 10:00.More info over at Genpatsu Zero no Kai Osaka (J).

Takahama is slated for using MOX fuel that contains 7% plutonium, but all four reactors are currently idle. The Kansai Action group opposes the restart. Sayonara!

Read more about Takahama on the Green Action website (E).

There is citizen protest against restart of the Fukui Prefecture reactors. Fukui Prefecture citizens are petitioning to stop restart of all the nuclear reactors and Kansai area residents are addressing evacuation, seismic, severe accident and other issues.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Eco Links For February, 2015

Time sure flies! I already have spuds in the soil (danchaku variety) and some peas in the greenhouse. Harvesting purple cabbage and lettuce, and spinach - need to protect them from birds, clever creatures they are. Next weekend is the big Japan Organic Agriculture Association (JOAA) assembly in Tokyo, a great opportunity to talk to experts in the field here. I'll be participating in the workshop about teikei (CSA) and show a few photos from my humble garten. Big reason I got so hot under my collar about growing my own vegetables was - visiting and learning from JOAA farmers.

Food safety, anyone? Good to know we are not exposed to anything harmful, unless you eat a lot of wild boar meat. Strontium 90 may be a concern, however. Water also safe.

Analysis of Japanese Radionuclide Monitoring Data of Food Before and After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Atominstitut, Vienna University of Technology, Stadionallee 2, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan
§ Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, United States
Institute of Environmental Radioactivity, Fukushima University, Fukushima 960-1296, Japan
Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP

In an unprecedented food monitoring campaign for radionuclides, the Japanese government took action to secure food safety after the Fukushima nuclear accident (Mar. 11, 2011). In this work we analyze a part of the immense data set, in particular radiocesium contaminations in food from the first year after the accident. Activity concentrations in vegetables peaked immediately after the campaign had commenced, but they decreased quickly, so that by early summer 2011 only a few samples exceeded the regulatory limits. Later, accumulating mushrooms and dried produce led to several exceedances of the limits again. Monitoring of meat started with significant delay, especially outside Fukushima prefecture. After a buildup period, contamination levels of meat peaked by July 2011 (beef). Levels then decreased quickly, but peaked again in September 2011, which was primarily due to boar meat (a known accumulator of radiocesium). Tap water was less contaminated; any restrictions for tap water were canceled by April 1, 2011. 

Link: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es5057648

Yen for a Living didn't mention the recent large milk study in Uppsala, Sweden about the harmful effects that milk has, such as hip fractures.

Got milk, get real?

Milk is not a good source of calcium, while spinach and kale is - and in many places in Japan, they are not so keen on the bovine stuff anymore:

Sanjo, a city in Niigata Prefecture, “experimentally” stopped serving milk with lunches at 30 public schools. The ostensible reason, according to the mayor, was that parents complained that milk doesn’t fit in with the Japanese cuisine the schools served.
The experiment happened to coincide with the consumption tax hike that went into effect last April, and the mayor conceded that one reason for cutting milk was to “prevent further increases in the cost of school lunches.” At the time, parents were paying ¥250 for elementary school children’s lunches and ¥300 for junior high school. The carton of milk that came with every meal cost the city ¥50.
Naturally, the Hokuriku Dairy Association protested strongly against Sanjo’s decision. Last year, Niigata dairy farmers produced 53,600 tons of milk, 14 percent of which was used in school lunches. The association challenged the opinion that milk doesn’t go with Japanese food, as did nutritionists, who pointed out that the absence of milk on a daily basis could have a negative effect on a child’s development, since a carton contains 200 of the minimum 300-400 grams of calcium required.
Even the education ministry found the experiment strange, saying it had “never heard of a school giving up milk for lunches.” Sanjo countered that the calcium could be made up easily by, for instance, fortifying soup with fish stock. In any event, the city received 61 messages from residents, with 43 supporting the experiment.

While I have had next to no encounters with Japan's hospitals, I'm told they provide terrific services. Not so in Sweden, apparently (except in the important category of "prevention"). This debate article by Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse, an organization which compares global healthcare systems, notes that waiting times in Sweden's hospitals are among the worst in Europe:

The question remains: What is preventing Sweden from taking a firm grip on its exuberant waiting times and making radical improvements? It hardly needs more investigation or more money - health care is not more expensive in countries with good accessibility. How long will queuing patients have to live with anxiety, pain and incapacity before Sweden's counties are able to honour their duties?

I have read a few of his novels, but who is the man? The Guardian tries to explore Kazuo Ishiguro's secrets, and maybe there are none, except that his wife reads his early drafts and has major input.

 He was born in Nagasaki in 1954; his mother, Shizuko, had survived the atomic bomb attack there when she was a teenager. His father, who was brought up in Shanghai, was an oceanographer, and it was his job that led the family to move to Guildford, where his mother still lives, when Kazuo was five. In a 2008 interview with the Paris Review, Ishiguro recalled how struck he was by the quietness of England, the sudden diminution in noise and images, the abiding sense of greenery. From his grandfather in Japan he still received colourful, busy books and comics; finding their English equivalents rather dull, he developed instead a great enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes, even coming up with his own detective stories.



(Top image, something I made back in 1992)

Update:

Yoroku: TEPCO must not fear telling the truth on Fukushima plant leaks

It has been nearly four years since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and almost as long since plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) declared the disaster "under control." This was and is an exaggeration, as we can see with the ongoing battle to deal with repeated radioactively contaminated water leaks.
Following news on Feb. 22 that water with concentrations of radioactive material 70 times higher than normal was being discharged into the plant's harbor from a drainage ditch, we learned yesterday that this contaminated water was also escaping into the open sea. What's more, TEPCO now says it had known this water -- which collects atop the No. 2 reactor building before running down drain spouts to the ditch -- was heavily contaminated since spring 2014, but made no public announcement until now. The utility hadn't even reported the situation to the government.
This terribly managed contaminated water problem is certainly scarier than tigers and wolves. What's truly deplorable, however, is how insensitive, how clumsy TEPCO is when it comes to releasing information. Because of the company's reticence, it is bound to be suspected of trying to hide the inconvenient fact of the leak. Both local fishing cooperatives and Fukushima Prefecture, too, are wondering openly if they can trust TEPCO.
Without the trust of the locals, TEPCO will find it well-nigh impossible to make progress on contaminated water disposal and the eventual decommissioning of the ruined Fukushima reactors. This radioactive water leak is unacceptable, but so is misreading what we need to fear most. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun) February 26, 2015