Monday, October 28, 2013

Japan: Radiation Education

I believe in education... I remember learning about the Barsebäck nuclear reactors near my home town Malmö back when I was 10 years old, and when I tried to help collect signatures, one posh lady said, "Horrible, the anti-nuke people are using children to promote their opinion" and I remember distinctly how angry I got, "no, I'm not just a child, I am not being used...." It was my future that lady was dismissing.

Survival knowledge: Fourth-graders discuss the health effects of radiation exposure at Akagi Elementary School in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 21. | MIZUHO AOKI PHOTOS

Children taught radiation studies

The Japan Times: Nuke education now compulsory subject in schools in Fukushima

A group of elementary school students in Koriyama, about 60 km from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, may only be 10 years old, but they possibly know more about radiation than fourth-graders anywhere in the world.

Post-Fukushima radiation education for children applies simple message

University student Daiki Kandatsu explains the difference between radiation and radioactivity to sixth-year elementary school students with the help of a poster, in Fukushima. (Mainichi)

Students studying infographics at Tokyo City University are applying their skills to teach elementary school pupils about radiation, and are hoping teachers will be able to use the materials to explain the topic in simple terms, even if they lack specialist knowledge.
During a lesson to pupils from Yuno Elementary School in Fukushima on Sept. 3, Daiki Kandatsu, a 20-year-old student in his third year at the university, spoke to the children in front of a poster containing an illustration of a light bulb.
"What if we compare radioactive materials to a light bulb? The light that comes from the bulb is radiation, and the ability to emit light is radioactivity. That's why it's correct for us to say, 'Radiation is emitted,' but not, 'Radioactivity is emitted.'"
To the children, light bulbs and nuclear radiation don't have much in common. But that was a point making the illustration in Kandatsu's talk titled "What is radiation?" easy to understand.
Kandatsu, who studies infographics at university, was not an expert on radiation himself, and he says he created the poster while learning about the issue "from square one." He also wanted to include information on the history of radiation's use, but he paid attention to how much the young children could take in, and decided to limit his talk to two points: the nature of radioactive materials, and how much radiation we are exposed to in our daily lives.
The light-bulb explanation went down well and Kandatsu heard the students saying, "I think I've got it!"
Education about radiation in Fukushima Prefecture is handled by teachers who received training from the prefectural and municipal education boards, with support from researchers who visit the prefecture from around the nation.
Yukiko Okada, an associate professor in the Atomic Energy Research Laboratory at Tokyo City University, has given over 30 lessons at elementary and junior high schools in Fukushima Prefecture since the 2012 academic year. Through those lessons, she felt the need for teaching materials that could explain radiation in simple terms.
It was around this time that she thought about putting up simple illustrations in school corridors and stairwells to explain radiation. She thought that giving children the chance to look over the information outside classes would deepen their understanding, and she asked Seita Koike, an associate professor specializing in information design at Tokyo City University, to help out.
Koike's research office had been involved in designing Yokohama bus maps, among various projects. Keeping visually impaired users in mind, he made the colors for different bus routes stand out, and increased the space between routes to make the maps more readable.
He stresses that in the latest designs for educational material on radiation, focus was placed on the perspective of users, rather than merely pasting information provided by the government and power companies.
The poster comparing radioactive material to light bulbs is on display in the gym of Yuno Elementary School, along with posters featuring other familiar items, such as curry and rice, and airplanes. The curry and rice poster was designed by a 21-year-old third-year student at the university. Using illustrations of vegetables and meat, it explains that those food products contain radiation in varying levels, saying, "Both food products and our bodies emit radiation." Children said the content was more interesting than what they learned during ordinary lessons.
"One problem with education from experts is the jargon, which is hard for kids to understand -- all those words flying about causes them to drift away from science. But with infographics, there are no such worries," Okada says.
The efforts of Tokyo City University students are due to be unveiled at an Atomic Energy Society meeting at the university next spring.
In 2008, curriculum guidelines for junior high school science education were revised to include lessons about the nature and use of radiation, and education on radiation began in the 2012 academic year. In November 2011, after the outbreak of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology prepared three types of supplementary teaching materials for use in elementary, junior high and high schools. These materials are used throughout Japan.
At the same time, students in Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear disaster broke out, have to continually think about exposure to low-level radiation. To make sure students have correct knowledge about radiation and are equipped to make their own decisions, the prefecture is proceeding with its own education on radiation. The prefectural education board produces material for teachers to use, and study meetings are held for school teachers to boost their knowledge about radiation. This forms the basis for about two to three hours of teaching each year as part of class activities.
In December 2012, the Fukushima Municipal Board of Education compiled its own teaching materials, tailored to each school grade, on the grounds that there was a need to provide education corresponding to the situation in the city, where airborne radiation levels were higher than in other municipalities. Second-grade students learn about high radiation levels in ditches and pools of water, while fifth-year elementary school students learn about radioactive materials in food. Second-year junior high school children learn about the effects of radiation on the body.
During training sessions, the Fukushima Municipal Board of Education holds mock lessons to support teachers, but some educators who lack experience worry about teaching children about radiation.
"Sometimes I pretend to know the things I've often read in newspapers or seen on TV," confesses one female elementary school teacher. "I don't know how much is getting through."
October 27, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TPP: Definition Of "Redact" Highlighted By US Rep. Alan Grayson

From the dictionary


to select or adapt (as by obscuring or removing sensitive information) for publication or release; broadly : edit. 3. : to obscure or remove (text) from a document ...

Over at Consumers Union of Japan we have come across this on several occasions, including our request to get details about Japan's handling of mad cow disease (BSE) and related documents, pertaining to beef imports from certain countries, and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms), and synthetic growth hormones (rBHG), where our experts finally in some cases were able to access data, but not allowed to photo copy it, thus had to endure a long process of writing it all down by hand.

October 25, 2013 4:13 PM 
Lawmakers rail against USTR’s use of the black marker

By Adam Behsudi

10/25/13 4:12 PM EDT

Rep. Alan Grayson couldn’t believe the response he got when he asked the top U.S. trade official to provide the negotiating positions of the other countries involved in the massive Pacific trade deal.

Black lines. Everywhere.

The document was so heavily redacted he couldn’t tell who was negotiating on what.
“The only thing that I’ve been provided to date — and I’m practically the only member who has been able to get this much — was a document that was redacted in such a way that I could not tell which participants were taking which negotiating positions,” the Florida Democrat told POLITICO, adding that he “had quite a confrontation” with officials in his Capitol Hill office over the matter.


Also, while members of Congress have complained loudly about the USTR’s transparency, the level of consultation in the United States strikes envy in the hearts of lawmakers in other nations where a heavy use of black markers by trade officials would be better than the current practices.

In Japan, for example, industry officials and lawmakers are not allowed to preview trade proposals, a lobbyist representing Japan’s agriculture interests told POLITICO. This information gap is causing Japanese legislators to worry that negotiators will cave on protecting sensitive agricultural items from tariff reductions or eliminations, the lobbyist said.

In Canada, parliamentarian Don Davies, the opposition New Democratic Party’s point person on international trade, demanded Prime Minister Stephen Harper allow legislators the same access to the text that U.S. lawmakers get. The different level of transparency gives the U.S. Congress an “undue advantage,” he said in an Aug. 28 statement.

“If the U.S. can allow its legislators to see the TPP text, there is no reason that Canada can’t,” he said.

Opposition parties in other member countries have seized upon transparency in trade as a political issue as well.

In Malaysia, the country’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who ran a close race against Prime Minister Najib Razak in May, forced a response from the country’s top trade official. Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed acknowledged that growing discomfort in Malaysia over the lack of transparency and urged his fellow trade ministers to explore “other means to enhance transparency.”

In New Zealand, David Cunliffe, who took over last month as the head of the Labor Party, focused one of his first public statements as party leader on the transparency of the TPP talks. He demanded that the government put the negotiating text in the public domain. “There are some real fish hooks,” Cunliffe said, referring to issues of concern to New Zealanders. “Investor-state relations is one, farming is another, the intellectual property rules are another, the degree and rate of upside in our agricultural trade opportunities is unknown.”

(Images of redacted/deleted pages not related to TPP, but looking exactly like what we/consumers/the general public/citizens are increasingly getting from our governments)

More over at Japan 'Cow-Tows' to US Beef Lobby 

We have been warning about the many and various problems with the US-led TPP free trade agreement for many months.  One of the problems is that it is shrouded in secrecy, so secret that members of the US Congress tasked with oversight of the agreement have not been able to view the texts of the negotiations…until now.  And they not seem very happy with what they are seeing.  This is one
Yesterday, Congressman Alan Grayson [...] announced that he had been allowed to read the text of TPP – and that it is  an anti-American power grab by big corporations:
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 classified].
Grayson also noted:
Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty. And I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why!
The US has led the TPP since it usurped the process from several Southeast Asian nations several years ago.  Since then, the entire thing has been classified, available only to the Obama administration, the leadership of participating nations … and 600 of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations which are involved in nearly every aspect of life on this planet.
From Monsanto which brought Asia “Agent Orange” and now is the leading source of patented genetically modified seeds (GMO) to investment bank Goldman Sachs, a key player in the financialization of the global economy.  From drug maker Pfizer who wants protection in the TPP which would stifle the production of low-cost generic medication to General Electric, maker of the now infamous Fukushima Daiichi reactors and a proponent of restarting Japan’s nuclear reactors.  From automakers Ford and GM which are demanding greater access to Japanese markets to big-farm agricultural giants like Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) which will benefit from Abe’s plan to force Japanese landowners to lease their small plot farms to ADM, one of the largest users of GMO seeds.
These companies are considered “stakeholders” in the TPP and are heavily involved in the negotiations.  Meanwhile, the people – the Japanese public and the hoi polloi of all member nations – who will have to live under the rules determined by these “stakeholders” have no say in the process.
Abe has agreed to this secrecy.  He knows who is making the rules of the pact.  He can not claim that the public is being properly represented in this deal which will change life forever in Japan and from which Japan will not be able to extricate itself in the future – under a more honorable and honest government.
The TPP is a complete sell-out to global corporate interests.  Rather than being a “free trade” deal designed to encourage competition and economic growth, it will stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, destroy small business, and effectively end Japan’s sovereignty.
At stake are…
  • Food security – corporations will decide where Japan’s food is grown and imported from around the world
  • food safety – corporations will not be forced to label GMO foods and Japan will not be able to enforce bans on GMO from entering the country
  • Sovereignty – Japan will not be able to legislate environmental, labor, safety, or other rules meant to protect the Japanese people and culture under threat of lawsuits by corporations or retaliation by the TPP bureaucracy
  • Culture – immigration (the movement of low-wage workers) will not be controlled by the Japanese people.  Instead, companies will determine their labor needs and force the government to change laws to meet those needs or be threatened by lawsuit
  • Traditions – multiculturalism will dilute Japanese traditions as large numbers of low-skilled workers from Asia and South America – each with their own traditions, languages, and culture – flood Japan to fill the low-wage needs of foreign companies in Japan
  • Language – learning Japanese will be too difficult for these low-skilled foreign workers and thus the requirement to learn the language will be loosened if not eliminated
  • Lifestyle – with the influx of lower-wage workers, incomes in Japan will fall.  The middle class workers will be competing against foreigners for jobs  which the foreign workers will accept at much lower wages.  The income gap between the wealthy and the poor will increase and the middle class will slide downward.
Again, Abe should be intelligent enough to see the future for the nation under the restrictions and rules of the TPP.  That he is willing to negotiate Japan’s future in secret, without public input or debate, is incongruous with his position.  He is either not nearly as intelligent as he appears or his is complicit in the global scheme to end national sovereignty and replace it with political-corporatism…also known as fascism.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Financial Crisis 101

For a long time I felt that the general public - consumers - are kept out of the loop of this financial crisis we are supposedly in.

How about your home mortgage, how about buying that car with a loan.... Cardiac arrest of the entire system... Better think twice?

Two great films:

Inside Job (2010)

Inside Job provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. Through exhaustive research and extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, the film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Too Big To Fall (2011)

A close look behind the scenes, between late March and mid-October, 2008: we follow Richard Fuld's benighted attempt to save Lehman Brothers; conversations among Hank Paulson (the Secretary of the Treasury), Ben Bernanke (chair of the Federal Reserve), and Tim Geithner (president of the New York Fed) as they seek a private solution for Lehman's; and, back-channel negotiations among Paulson, Warren Buffet, investment bankers, a British regulator, and members of Congress as almost all work to save the U.S. economy. By the end, with the no-strings bailout arranged, modest confidence restored on Wall Street, and a meltdown averted, Paulson wonders if banks will lend.

And how did Japan somehow manage to not get embroiled in this massive US financial crisis?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Climate Change And Fishing Conditions Up In Hokkaido

If you eat fish, here is news about how climate change may be influencing catches of salmon and amberjack, as seasonal catches seem to be all confused. Add to that the many typhoons this year. Update 1: The two typhoons on their way this week will be doing the Fujiwara Interaction, probably during the weekend. Watch out...

But first, a cool video of the old Big Catch Dance...

You do of course understand that all eating of living beings involve that awkward moment of what we call culling or slaughter. Such rather ancient words we have little connection with. But in the video, they quickly make it clear just how you have to "kill" those large, beautiful creatures after pulling them into your boat. I like the honesty... Mostly, today, slaughterhouses ban and forbid filming or photographing of such event, be it for cattle, pigs, chicken. Not fair. Not to you, the consumer, and certainly not fair to the animals/victims.

Here is another great dance performance, from Chiba, about that Big Great Catch.

The Mainichi  has a column I like, called Yoroku. This time, they talk about climate change, and the recent news about changing fishing conditions.

Yoroku: Torrent of typhoons and befuddled fishermen ominous signs of ocean warming

A long time ago, it was said that Japan was a divided nation; divided by fish. In the west of the country, they ate amberjack with their traditional New Year's meal, while in the east it was salmon. The border between these fishy factions was Nagano Prefecture, with salted amberjack from Toyama holding sway as far as Azumino and the Kiso district, and Niigata salted salmon taking over from around Lake Suwa and the Saku area.
While there are probably areas where this culinary tradition persists unchanged, the same cannot be said for the dividing line between the ranges of the fish themselves. The seasonal borders beneath the waves, demarking the habitats of amberjack, salmon and many other species besides, have been shifting in recent years. Nets off the shores of Hokkaido meant to catch autumn salmon have instead been pulling in massive hauls of amberjack. People in the local fishery, needless to say, are apparently quite surprised by the development.
This is not the first time amberjack, which live in warm currents, have got mixed in with the autumn salmon catch. However, fishermen have now pulled in a major amberjack haul during salmon season three years in a row, with this year's catch setting a new record. As you might guess, rising ocean temperatures are behind these out-of-season amberjack bonanzas, and irregular catches of squid, Pacific saury and sardines are hot topics of conversation in the Hokkaido fishing community.
Meanwhile, one need only look at the string of October typhoons around Japan to see that ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions are changing in southern seas as well. The 27th typhoon of the year -- Typhoon Francisco -- looks like it will approach the Japanese archipelago late this week, but it is in fact the fifth typhoon of the month to pass close to this country's shores -- the most ever recorded for October.
We have heard that the ocean surface temperature east of the Philippines, where typhoons are born, is high, and conditions are ripe for the formation of cumulonimbus clouds -- the dense, towering clouds associated with storms. Already, Typhoon Lekima-- this year's 28th -- is biting at Typhoon Francisco's heels. We haven't seen 30 typhoons in a year since 1994, but that number looks possible this year. Of course, shifting sea temperatures will impact the ocean ecology as well.
Back in Hokkaido, fishermen are happily pulling in a better salmon catch than last year in addition to the amberjack windfall, and so neither the salmon nor the amberjack culinary camps are likely to be disappointed. Though this may be good news for New Year's diners, we worry what this year's odd mixing of warm and cold water currents portends for the future of the abundant waters around Japan. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
October 23, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Funkist - Ai No Uta

I was really impressed by Funkist today this afternoon at the Hibiya Park Soil & Peace Festival event that was not cancelled in spite of the 27th typhoon hitting Tokyo: lots of rain as the band played on to a happy crowd.

Here is a slow acoustic version of Ai No Uta (Love Song) from back when flutist Yoko Kasugai was still with the band. RIP. (J) has more

And here is a fun amateur video (but pls pls pls don't zoom so much back and forth!!) from the 2009 Hibiya Soil & Peace event. Nice version of their hit Shiroi Sekai (White World).

And here is a short clip from the 2008 event - note how vocalist Souya Saigo quips that the event uses no nuclear power, all renewables, 3 years before you-know-what happened.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Soil & Peace Festival 2013

There will be a Soil & Peace Festival in Hibiya Park, Tokyo on Sunday October 20, 2013. Starting at 10:00 hundreds of farmers and activists and artists will hold a great event until the evening.

A great opportunity to meet your favourite NGOs and learn more about organic food, anti-nuclear campaigns and the future of Japan. Look forward to lots of inspiration! Music by Katou Tokiko and many others throughout the day, starting with a taiko performance by Gocco.

Website with more info (J) here


International Film Festival on Organic Farming

The 7th organic film festival will be held in Tokyo on November 23-24, 2013. This will be a great opportunity to catch up with recent trends and watch documentaries from Japan and abroad. The theme this year is “Holding on to the Soil” to refelct the hardships many farmers are experiencing, with special focus on Okinawa and Fukushima.

Location: Hosei University, Sotobori Campus (between Iidabashi and Ichigaya stations on the Sobu line)

Tickets: 1800 Yen (pre order) 2500 Yen ( at the entrance)

For more information please check the official website (J).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yet Another Big Typhoon...

...over Tokyo, likely to affect Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Fukushima as well. It should get extremely bad in the morning of Wednesday Oct. 16 from 6am so don't expect trains to be running.

If you worry, get a delay certificate * paper slip at your station and show your boss. Since 2012, you can also do it digitally from your mobile phone/iPhone/web. Even better: Stay home, stay safe. Might be over by noon.

I kind of like how the heavy rain pounds my roof as I get to sleep. Nature is powerful, we had better remember it. We are one with this planet if we let go of some of our fears.

This is one big one, the "largest in 10 years" or so we are told.

Here are some safety precaution measures suggested by ANN:

Image of delay slips from odcanime, who had JR trouble when studying design back in Osaka.

電車遅延証明書 densha chien shoumei sho

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Invitation to the Global Article 9 Conference in Kansai 2013

If you can make it, do join this important conference in Osaka on Monday, October 14.

Via Global Article 9

Invitation to the Global Article 9 Conference in Kansai 2013

Article 9 of Japan's Constitution states that Japan renounces both war and military capability. This article has unique value in today's global society.

Across the world, more and more countries are adopting pacifist constitutions that not only prohibit war in favor of peaceful resolution of conflicts, but also ban weapons of mass destruction – including nuclear weapons. Having experienced the horrors of World War II, Japan's adoption of Article 9 is one of the earliest manifestations of such a legal norm. The preamble to the Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to live in peace, an important concept that overlaps with the notion of the Human Right to Peace which is currently being debated by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In spite of this, the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his Liberal Democratic administration are maneuvering to distort the pacifist constitution by revising Article 9. This coincides with dangerous moves to justify Japan's former invasion and colonization of countries across the Asia Pacific region. In the face of these threats, many peace-loving Japanese citizens have joined together to oppose this constitutional revision, and are working to spread the value of Article 9 around the world. While there may be some Japanese politicians who have appalled the world with statements that approve of war-time slavery, the Japanese people do not approve of these statements. The movement to protect human rights and peace is spreading across Japan, and has forged links with youth activists, and others campaigning for nuclear weapons abolition, to end end nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster, and to protect employment, education and living standards.

After the great success of the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War of May 2008, which attracted 30,000 participants, the Global Article 9 Conference in Kansai 2013 will be held in Osaka in October 2013. We ask you to consider attending, and further cooperation not only in preventing constitutional revision but also in together spreading Article 9's message of peace around the world.

Co-Initiators of the Global Article 9 Conference in Kansai 2013

Ikeda Kayoko (Translator)
Niikura Osamu (Secretary General of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Lecturer at Aoyama Gakuin University)
Yoshioka Tatsuya (Peace Boat Co-Founder and Director)
Kido Eiichi (Osaka School of International Public Policy)            
Matsuura Goro (Catholic Bishop)

Friday, October 11, 2013

NHK: Placido Domingo Sings In Japanese

...and he also encourages Japanese people and all of us to overcome hardships resulting from the 2011 disaster with strong will and a belief in human bonds.
Domingo is in Japan for his performances to commemorate 400 years of exchanges between the countries. The first Japanese mission left for Spain in 1613. In an interview with NHK on Thursday, the tenor singer said Japan is always on his mind. He said family bonds, and a sense of solidarity felt after the disaster, will help Japanese people tackle their challenges. He said he wants people to go forward with strong will. Domingo performed in Japan one month after the earthquake and the nuclear accident, when many other events featuring overseas artists were being canceled. Oct. 10, 2013
Now, here is a tune I like a lot, I did feature it before on Kurashi.

Shirazu shirazu, aruite kita
Hosoku nagai kono michi
Furikaereba haruka toku furusato ga mieru
Dekoboko michi ya magarikunetta michi chizu sae nai, sore mo mata jinsei


Kawa no nagare no yoni yuruyaka ni ikutsu mo jidai wa sugite
Aa kawa no nagare no yoni tomedo naku
Sora ga tasogare ni somaru dake Ikiru koto wa tabisuru koto owari no nai kono michi
Aisuru hito soba ni tsurete yume sagashi nagara
Ame ni furarete nukarunda michi demo itsuka wa mata hareru hi ga kuru kara
Aa kawa no nagare no yoni odayaka ni kono mi wo makasete itai
Aa kawa no nagare no yoni utsuri yuku
Kisetsu yukidoke o machi nagara
Aa kawa no nagare no yoni odayaka ni kono mi o makasete itai
Aa kawa no nagare no yoni itsumade mo
Aoi seseragi o kikinagara

English translation:

Without knowing it, without knowing it, I have walked here
This long and narrow road
Looking back, long distance away I can see my hometown
On the uneven and winding road
There is no map to follow.
Again, life is the same way.


Like the river flowing leisurely, Time passes through the ages
Like the river flowing endlessly, The sky is tinted (red) by the sunset
Life is a journey on an endless road with my love beside me
I search for dreams
Even this muddy road in the rain
Will some day see a sunny day
Like the river flowing leisurely, I entrust myself gently to the flow of nature
Just like the changing flow of the river
Awaiting the season to change and the snow to melt
 Like the river flowing leisurely, I entrust myself gently to the flow of nature
Like the river flowing eternally, while listening to the sound of blue stream

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Nobel Peace Prize for Thich Nhat Than, Finally?

The guy is almost 90, he has done so much good for Vietnam and the world. Martin Luther King (who was awarded the Prize in 1964) wrote and recommended him back in 1967, a year when no one was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Mindfulness Bell:

Exiled from Vietnam, he traveled to the U.S. where he made the case for peace to federal and Pentagon officials including Robert McNamara. He may have changed the course of U.S. history when he persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and so helped galvanize the peace movement. The following year, King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Subsequently Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. 

A lot of water under the bridge since then.

When will the Oslo people ever get it right, again?

Good interview with super-famous Oprah Winfrey, bless her:

January 25, 1967
The Nobel Institute
Drammesnsveien 19

As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 1964, I now have the pleasure of proposing to you the name of Thich Nhat Hanh for that award in 1967.
I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.
This would be a notably auspicious year for you to bestow your Prize on the Venerable Nhat Hanh. Here is an apostle of peace and non-violence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war which has grown to threaten the sanity and security of the entire world.
Because no honor is more respected than the Nobel Peace Prize, conferring the Prize on Nhat Hanh would itself be a most generous act of peace. It would remind all nations that men of good will stand ready to lead warring elements out of an abyss of hatred and destruction. It would re-awaken men to the teaching of beauty and love found in peace. It would help to revive hopes for a new order of justice and harmony.
I know Thich Nhat Hanh, and am privileged to call him my friend. Let me share with you some things I know about him. You will find in this single human being an awesome range of abilities and interests.
He is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. The author of ten published volumes, he is also a poet of superb clarity and human compassion. His academic discipline is the Philosophy of Religion, of which he is Professor at Van Hanh, the Buddhist University he helped found in Saigon. He directs the Institute for Social Studies at this University. This amazing man also is editor of Thien My, an influential Buddhist weekly publication. And he is Director of Youth for Social Service, a Vietnamese institution which trains young people for the peaceable rehabilitation of their country.
Thich Nhat Hanh today is virtually homeless and stateless. If he were to return to Vietnam, which he passionately wishes to do, his life would be in great peril. He is the victim of a particularly brutal exile because he proposes to carry his advocacy of peace to his own people. What a tragic commentary this is on the existing situation in Vietnam and those who perpetuate it.
The history of Vietnam is filled with chapters of exploitation by outside powers and corrupted men of wealth, until even now the Vietnamese are harshly ruled, ill-fed, poorly housed, and burdened by all the hardships and terrors of modern warfare.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers a way out of this nightmare, a solution acceptable to rational leaders. He has traveled the world, counseling statesmen, religious leaders, scholars and writers, and enlisting their support. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.
I respectfully recommend to you that you invest his cause with the acknowledged grandeur of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh would bear this honor with grace and humility.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Climbing Mt. Fuji At Night?

Great photo by Hideki Domoto, who

...set his camera’s exposure time at 15 minutes, enabling the camera to capture the movement of the stars. The photo shows the stars as circles in the night sky with the polar star at the center. At the far left of the mountain, one of shooting stars of the Perseid meteor shower leaves a trace of light.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Health Care, Your Call, Why TPP Should Matter

Here in Japan, we have a terrific public health care system, that covers everyone. It even covers dental care. No wonder people are concerned here that the TPP, and the current US government shutdown over "Obamacare" may have implications.

The TPP negotiators seem to not like anything supported by tax payers.

Do sign the petition:

In conclusion, we have reviewed this extraordinary agreement, which would ruinously reverse and rewrite the history of humanity with its repeated struggles for democracy, freedoms, human rights, and welfare.  As noted, “the secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership process represents a huge assault on the principles and practice of democratic governance.”33  In translating the AUF’s “youbousho” as “petition,” I thought of another word: list of grievances.  One such formal set of letters was “Cahiers de Doléances” written in 1789, the year the French Revolution started.  Similarly, I thought of letters written by our ancestors on the eve of peasant uprisings in feudal Japan.  The AUF petition evokes such indignation of citizens as it brings the TPP under public scrutiny.
Recommended Citation: Sachie Mizohata, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Its Critics: An introduction and a petition," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 36, No. 3
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Aflac is a US insurance company with a stupid duck as its main PR tool.

Aflac and the weird duck has somehow gotten a special deal with Japan Post. Noone else but Aflac can offer cancer insurance in Japan, using Japan Post? How did that happen?

Glad to see activists in the US are protesting (September 23, 2013)!

Above is a video of activists working in the coalition dropping multiple banners from the US Trade Representatives Building in Washington, DC to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The groups sought to expose the secret negotiations that have been ongoing throughout the five years of the Obama administration and mobilize people concerned about workers, the environment, banking, food, water, Internet freedom and other issues to take action to oppose the TPP.  The TPP will give large transnational corporations absolute power over our lives and make them more powerful than governments.
This is a video of activists working in the coalition dropping multiple banners from the US Trade Representatives Building in Washington, DC to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The groups sought to expose the secret negotiations that have been ongoing throughout the five years of the Obama administration and mobilize people concerned about workers, the environment, banking, food, water, Internet freedom and other issues to take action to oppose the TPP. The TPP will give large transnational corporations absolute power over our lives and make them more powerful than governments.

If the TPP becomes law the US government will have negotiated away the sovereignty of US communities to deal with food, water, health, the environment and other issues. It will have put in place an economy rigged for the wealthiest that will cost the US jobs and drive down wages. Experience with agreements like NAFTA have taught us that these agreements are not good for the economy, increase US trade debt, hurt workers in the US and foreign countries and only help the wealthiest. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the US would see only a .1% increase in the economy if the TPP becomes law but 90% of workers would see their wages go down. These agreements are misnamed "free" trade for propaganda purposes as what they really are is "rigged" trade building on the corrupt crony capitalist economy that funnels money to the wealthiest transnational corporations. Foreign governments should wake up and realize the TPP will put them at the mercy of US trans national corporations.

The first battle is stopping Fast Track which undermines the US Constitution which under the Commerce Clause gives Congress responsibility to negotiate trade between nations. This should be opposed by members of Congress no matter what their political viewpoint because it is a Constitutional issue that upsets the checks and balances of government. It puts too much power in the hands of the president without sufficient involvement of the Congress. Call your member of Congress and Senators today and urge them to oppose Fast Track authority for the president: 202-224-3121.

Groups participating in this protest included Flush The TPP, Popular Resistance, Backbone Campaign, Earth First!, CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace.

Sometimes, one has to wonder, how rude, how insensitive, how unjust these companies can be, while pretending to care for people - with Gilbert Gottfried fired for his terrible comments post March 11, 2011:

Salon: This Could Be You, Monster

FILE - In this June 14, 2010 file photo, Gilbert Gottfried arrives with the Aflac duck to the 14th Annual Webby Awards in New York.

Aflac on Monday, March 14, 2011 announced that it has severed ties with Gottfried over jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that the comedian posted on Twitter. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)(Credit: Charles Sykes)
Aflac is opening the field to people who want to take a quack at doing the new voice of the insurer’s ever-abrasive duck mascot. Aflac Inc. will begin accepting submissions on Wednesday in the search for someone to replace Gilbert Gottfried, who was ousted last week after voicing the duck for more than 10 years because he made insensitive remarks on Twitter about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Asahi has more, note how this somehow took place in the very hot summer of 2013:

INSIGHT: Japan Post ties up with Aflac on cancer insurance after U.S. pressure

July 27, 2013


Japan Post Holdings Co. and American Family Life Assurance Co. of Columbus (Aflac) announced July 26 they are teaming up to sell cancer insurance policies. Japan Post Holdings, which is government owned, operates the nationwide network of post offices and is the nation's largest holder of bank deposits. It plans to sell Aflac policies in as many as 20,000 of its post offices and in the 79 offices of its insurance unit, Japan Post Insurance Co.

The announcement came only three days after Japan made its debut at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks and is largely seen as a concession by Tokyo to Washington.
The United States has complained for years about Japan Post's entry into the cancer insurance market. Given that Japan Post is wholly owned by the government, the United States, as well as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, argued that Japan Post Insurance would have an unfair advantage over its private-sector competitors, denying a level playing field.

"Closer relations with Aflac, the leading player in the cancer insurance sector, are expected to boost our corporate value," Japan Post President Taizo Nishimuro told a news conference, which was also attended by Aflac Japan Chairman Charles Lake. Lake, who also serves as president emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, was a long-time "opponent" of Japan Post's bid to enter the insurance market.

The issue came up during the preliminary talks between Tokyo and Washington on Japan's entry in the TPP negotiations. After those discussions, Finance Minister Taro Aso announced in April he would not give the green light if Japan Post Insurance applied to sell new insurance instruments.

In the meantime, Aflac made its own overtures. This past spring, the U.S. company approached Japan Post about forming an alliance, sources said. Japan Post's president and other executives appointed in June in a management shakeup initiated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office, concluded that a tie-up with Aflac, a main rival, was the best way to prevent the issue from acting as a major snag to the TPP talks.

Abe's office was kept in the loop about the alliance talks and was notified last week that the tie-up announcement would be made July 26.

That was not the case with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which oversees Japan Post. It was kept in the dark, and ministry officials were left to confirm news reports on July 25 that the two companies were planning to form an alliance.

"We needed no help from the communications ministry," one senior Japan Post official said.
Tokyo and Washington will most likely hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the forthcoming multilateral TPP negotiations.

"We have been saved from having to hear complaints about the insurance sector," said one Japanese official involved in the talks.

Not everyone agrees to acquiescing to U.S. demands so easily. "They will only come up with new demands if we concede first," one high-ranking official in the communications ministry said. "We've kind of given them a free bonus. And Japan has gained nothing." Japanese life insurance companies dominate the nation in writing life insurance policies, but their foreign rivals control market share in the "third" insurance sector, which includes medical insurance and cancer insurance. Aflac alone has a 70-percent market share in the supplemental cancer insurance market, which covers extra medical costs.
In the past, major Japanese life insurance companies were barred from the "third" insurance sector, which gave foreign players an advantage and access to large cash reserves. Although the regulations were lifted in 2001, the foreign players still retain their competitive edge.

"We are lagging far behind, both in our capabilities to develop new instruments and to promote sales," said one senior official of a leading Japanese underwriter of life insurance.
Japanese insurers, which are seeking new revenue streams, see the "third" sector as a logical expansion choice given the writing of new life insurance policies is leveling off due to falling birthrates and the aging of the overall population.

But the latest deal, which will allow Aflac to sell its cancer insurance policies in Japan Post's network of post offices, could further widen the advantage gap enjoyed by foreign players in the sector. A representative of Nippon Life Insurance Co., an industry leader that in 2008 concluded an alliance with Japan Post Insurance, including the joint development of cancer insurance instruments, expressed "disappointment" over the latest developments. One well-placed source close to Nippon Life has even indicated there may be a possible review of the alliance agreement. "There will be no further joint development of cancer insurance instruments," the source said.

(This article was compiled from reports by Manabu Nagashima, Tomoya Fujita and Kenichiro Shino.)