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Showing posts from June, 2013

Seetell: TPP ‘hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests’

Last month, 10,000 of us submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in which we objected to new so-called free trade agreements. We asked that the government not sell out our democracy to corporate interests.
Because of this pressure, the USTR  finally let a member of Congress – little ole me, Alan Grayson – actually see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a large, secret trade agreement that is being negotiated with many countries in East Asia and South America.
The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.”  Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.
1)    There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2)    This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3)    What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is c…

$38.9 billion Is The GDP Of Which Countries?

So TEPCO has been getting the equivalent of the GDP of which countries, to stay afloat?

Now, this is one of those tricky figures... but I'm not going to get into that. GDP is what it is. Wikipedia has at least three different ways to measure GDP. So, scroll down, and you get to where it gets interesting.

Tepco, the main monopoly electricity utility company serving Tokyo has gotten some $38.9 billion to stay afloat after the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster that was triggered by a completely natural event, an earthquake and a massive tsunami. We, tax payers, and you if you have a pension fund in any country, which has invested in Japanese bonds (do you?) or any such scheme... We are now all paying for not only the cleanup efforts, but also to keep the bright neon lights shining in the Tokyo Metropolis.

Looking at the list, the $38.9 billion is about the same as the GDP of countries like Jordan, Latvia, Nepal and Turkmenistan.

Just to keep everyone in Tokyo happy :)

Wikipedia: List …

TEPCO Rejects Just About All Appeals From Stakeholders Who Try To Rebuild Their Lives

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Yesterday, at Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo, TEPCO held its annual meeting and there were a lot of protests. This is the utility that brought us the nuclear crisis after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, with meltdowns at three of its nuclear power plants. Still not under control, still leaking radioactivity, and so far some 3.79 trillion yen ($38.9 billion) by the government spent to settle compensation claims from the nuclear disaster, i. e. have been injected from tax payers to keep TEPCO afloat.

At the annual meeting, stock holders got to file motions, including Greenpeace Japan, that tried to raise the issue of the responsibility of companies that supplied parts to the Fukushima Daiich Nuclear Plant, including General Electric, the US company. All such motions were voted down.

Bloomberg: Tepco’s Shareholders Decline to Pursue GE for Fukushima Claims

“It is very important to find how much GE knew about issues that may lead to accidents and how much GE has tried to remedy the…

Face Palm: Japan Power Industry Bill Fail

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Oh, the irony. We had a perfectly good opportunity to get a breakup of the electricity company monopoly today, and the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament manages to screw it up on a technicality. Makes you think there are no coincidences, but nevertheless. There is still a chance later this year, and this is important.

OK, so here are some links, in case you are interested. And you should be, because this is how we can wean this blessed country* away from singular relying on nuclear power. And yes, there are alternatives, if we, the consumers, get a chance to choose. And if this bill passes, we will be in a better position to do so (And yes, I know there is a lot of hydro power too in Japan, which is a perfectly good renewable energy resource, but it is not how we are going to solve the energy crisis if we ask for nuclear power plants to be stopped).

So here are the links:

1) NHK World: Bill to revise electricity business scrapped

(Not exactly true, since it will come back in the …

Marriage Data, Sweden & Japan

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Interesting to note that people are delaying the time of their marriages, both in Japan and in Sweden (and I suppose in many other countries).

NHK World: Govt. report says Japanese getting children later

A government report shows more Japanese people are waiting to get married or have children. The report said in 2011, the average age at which Japanese men got hitched for the first time was 30.7, and 29 for women. That's 2.9 years higher for men and 3.8 years higher for women compared to 1980. It also said that the average age for a woman to give birth to her first child was 30.1, exceeding 30 for the first time ever. It rose by 0.2 years compared to 2010.

The Japanese marriage curve change seems to be following exactly the same curve as that for Sweden. Except, Japanese still marry about three years earlier, on average. No comment about that on NHK World, but you'd rarely see any such analysis on Japanese news. Anyway. We know that there are a tremendous amount of envir…

Zuiganji In Matsushima: How To Restore An Ancient Zen Temple

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I had the great pleasure of getting a personal tour of the restoration that is going on at a famous temple in Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, which was partially damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

In fact, the tsunami didn't reach all the way up to the temple buildings, but just meters from the main gate. Did the ancient founders of this holy place know something that we don't? I guess so.

Zuiganji dates back to 828 when Ennin founded Enpukuji (Matsushimadera) in these parts.

There are still huge living trees that are at least 800 years old on the premises. And there are religious art from as far back as the Heian period, i e before those trees were first grown.



The main building of the Zuiganji temple is currently covered by a tent-like construction cover, so if you do visit Matsushima, you can see other interesting buildings like the kitchen and the museum, which are well worth your time. Imagine you are in the early 1600s and you will get the picture. It…

Sashiko - Japanese Traditional Folk Broidery

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Learn something new each day - that is one of my many mottos, and here at Kurashi, I do try to keep things that way. Then I realized I know next to nothing about clothes. Fashion? Sorry, I'm not your guy, as you probably know if you... but I digress.

I had the pleasure of meeting sashiko artist Hagiwara Hisako who says she cannot do straight stitches, she is just not that kind of gal... She loves to talk about recycling  old cotton from when Japan grew the stuff, and spends endless hours on a single purse or pot holder...

Most are dyed with indigo, that special hue that was so loved in rural Japan before synthetic dyes became commonplace, because the indigo could be grown and produced locally. Hagiwara Hisako only works by hand, and all her sashiko are all handmade, of course.

Her works of art will be shown abroad for the first time at Murberget, the Prefectural Museum in Norrland, Sweden this fall.

More about sashiko embroidery patterns.

Do check out this Wikipedia entry for Tradi…

Shinkansen Train Driver - Rare

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It is very rare that we get a glimpse of what goes on inside the minds of the people who drive the Shinkansen trains. With English subtitles.


Montessori For Kids: Fuji Kindergarten

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A Montessori kindergarten in Tokyo? I had no idea. Over 600 pupils. And their school is designed by a couple of architects who have children themselves, and wanted only the best, based on studies. This was done back in 2007, and it turns out that this is one kindergarten with no bullying, and no violence. Well, I'm sure kids are kids... But, I'm also sure the Italian-born Maria Montessori would have approved.

The point is, as I learnt on Monday listening to Tezuka Takaharu describe this OECD-lauded project, is the slope. The entire shape tints, and kids just love it. If it was an ordinary running track, there would be no fun, no exploration, no discovery. The roof shape and angle is an invitation to go for it. However, when CNN visited, some kids got hurt. Thus this haven is very careful about visitors.


Plus there are trees to climb, great zelkovas.

And there is also an annex:

While the main building is elliptical, lacking a precise center, the annex has a clear focal point. …

Mr. Thank You (1936)

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Do catch this black-and-white film from 1936, directed by Shimizu Hiroshi. A simple bus ride from a rural town with a cheerful driver, popular with everyone he meets, but the story has much more to tell us.

Mid 1930s were recession times, which meant young women who did not marry could only find work in the big cities, at paper mills or work of a kind that could not be mentioned.

The story also hints at the plight of out-of-work males who went back to their home towns, and migrant women who followed construction crews around as they built roads, tunnels, railways in the countryside...

I like the subtitles, they are terrific - except perhaps in the choice of the English word "migrant" for wataridori 渡り鳥 (migratory birds) because that is also mentioned, that such birds, they will return...

Yet the sense of warmth is strongly communicated, and there is the jazz music and the scenery and the smiles and the kids and the narratives.

Do watch before you comment. A rare glimpse into …