Saturday, January 31, 2015

TPP Protests, Ag and Pharma and More

Kyodo reports that

Japan mulls concession on rice in TPP negotiations

TOKYO, Jan. 30, Kyodo
Japan has offered to import more rice from the United States in response to strident calls from Washington to make a concession toward concluding Pacific Rim free trade talks, negotiation sources said Friday.
During bilateral talks, Japan has proposed a plan to increase annual rice imports from the United States by some 50,000 tons as part of its quota for an emergency stockpile under the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative, the sources said.
Japan has sought to protect its key farm products -- rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar -- as exceptions to the tariff-abolishing TPP. As rice, the staple part of the Japanese diet, is especially regarded as off-limits, agricultural lobbyists and lawmakers with close ties to farmers could react sharply against Tokyo's plan.

 
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/28/headlines/protesters_interrupt_us_trade_rep_at_tpp_hearing

Protesters Interrupt U.S. Trade Rep at TPP Hearing

Democracy Now!
January 28, 2015

(10:52-long video included in link; trade section begins around minute 9:00)

The top U.S. trade official has told lawmakers the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could be wrapped up within months and urged Congress to give the White House fast-track authority to approve the deal. Protesters with the group Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership repeatedly interrupted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s testimony before Congress. The protesters — Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and retired steelworker Richard Ochs — were all arrested after being removed from the hearing.

Michael Froman: "At USTR, we’re advancing those goals by knocking down barriers to U.S. exports and leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses of all sizes. As we work to open markets around the world, we’re"—

Dr. Margaret Flowers: "Mr. Froman, you are not telling the American people the truth. We know that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret for five years, when you’re trying to rush it through Congress with fast track because it’s secret and you know that things in there are going to hurt the American people. They’re going to offshore our jobs and lower our wages, in fact. Our job is to protect our communities."

Sen. Orrin Hatch: "Let’s have order. All right, remove this person from the room, and if anybody else—if anybody else does this, we’re going to be—you’re going to be removed."

Dr. Margaret Flowers: "They’re not going to allow us to protect our communities from corporations that want to poison us. They’re not going to allow us to protect our workers from poor working conditions. You are not going to get fast track. The American people are against it. They’re against the TPP. No secret trade deal!"

Kevin Zeese: "We’re saying stop fast track, today."

Richard Ochs: "No TPP! No"—

Kevin Zeese: "We don’t want supersized NAFTA. We don’t want—we don’t want [inaudible]."

Sen. Orrin Hatch: "Remove these people."

Kevin Zeese: "We don’t want to undermine [inaudible]. We believe in democracy, not secrecy. We want transparency!"

Richard Ochs: "No TPP! No TPP! No TPP!"


http://rt.com/usa/226791-hatch-froman-tpp-protest/


Anti-trade deal protesters hijack Senate TPP hearing


RT
By Staff Writers
January 27, 2015

Protesters opposed to a major, multi-national trade deal being negotiated in secret by a dozen countries – including the United States – hijacked a US Senate hearing early Tuesday to speak out against the proposal.

Capitol Police removed no fewer than three demonstrators Tuesday morning during testimony delivered before the Senate Committee on Finance by US Trade Representative Michael Froman concerning the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Froman had just begun making his opening statements when a protester in the Senate gallery got out of her seat and interrupted the ambassador.

“You are not telling the American people the truth,” said the woman.

“We know that the TPP has been negotiated in secret for five years. You’re trying to rush it through Congress and fast track it because its secret and you know that the things in there are going to hurt the American people,” she said.

As the woman was escorted out of the room, other demonstrators began displaying signs, including lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese.

“We believe in Democracy, not secrecy,” Zeese said as he unfurled a large white banner inscribed with anti-TPP slogans.

cid:image001.png@01D03AE7.C64A0320

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Committee’s chairman, attempted to rein the hearing in while acknowledging the ambivalence concerning the TPP — a 12-nation proposal that would encode new trade rules for intellectual property and market access and eliminate long-existing tariffs while, according to opponents like intellectual Joe Stiglitz, "restrict access to knowledge."
In addition to IP restrictions, critics have also taken issue with the lack of transparency concerning meetings between potential TPP partners, including the US and several nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Draft documents have previously been published by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in an effort to disclose as much of the agreement as possible before it is adopted, but opponents of the proposal in the US have expressed concern that Congress could “fast track” the deal to expedite authorization by presenting it to the House and Senate with no amendments attached.

READ MORE: TPP Uncovered: WikiLeaks releases draft of highly-secretive multi-national trade deal

“I understand that some people have strong feelings about the subject were talking about today. That’s fine,” Hatch told the protesters. “The First Amendment guarantees your right to express your views, but we have to allow civil discussion to occur in the context of this hearing.”

Ambassador Froman soon after continued his testimony, but was almost immediately interrupted by another protester who said the “big business corporate secret deals are costing American jobs.”

Protesters then held up signs, including one reading “Fast Track: Constitutional Train Wreck,” before Froman attempted once again to continue his testimony.

According to a written statement prepared by Froman ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, the Office of the US Trade Representative is narrowing in on finalizing TPP negotiations, expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

“At the TPP Leaders meeting in November convened by President Obama, all 12 countries took note of the progress that has been made on TPP, and agreed that the end of the negotiation is now coming into focus. And the TPP countries reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement, and to work toward finalizing the TPP agreement as soon as possible,” Froman said.

"We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon," said the ambassador, adding that his office’s agenda “is committed to supporting more good jobs, promoting growth and strengthening America’s middle class.”

Along with the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan have expressed interest in signing the TPP.




Don't Trade Away Our Health


By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

JAN. 30, 2015

A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.

Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.

The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators.

Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.

There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.

The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.

That’s why, since the United States opened up its domestic market to generics in 1984, they have grown from 19 percent of prescriptions to 86 percent, by some accounts saving the United States government, consumers and employers more than $100 billion a year. Drug companies stand to gain handsomely if the T.P.P. limits the sale of generics.

The second strategy is to undermine government regulation of drug prices. More competition is not the only way to keep down the prices of essential goods and services. Governments can also directly restrain prices through law, or effectively restrain them by denying reimbursement to patients for “overpriced” drugs — thus encouraging companies to bring down their prices to approved levels. These regulatory approaches are especially important in markets where competition is limited, as it is in the drug market. If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the T.P.P. will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices. And the pharmaceutical companies surely hope the “standard” they help set in this agreement will become global — for example, by becoming the starting point for United States negotiations with the European Union over the same issues.

Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn’t mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.

We can’t be sure which of these features have made it through this week’s negotiations. What’s clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.

The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is the author of “The Price of Inequality.”

http://blogs.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/fast-track-protesters-trade-michael-froman/?dcz=

Protesters Arrested at Fast-Track Trade Hearing

http://blogs.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/fast-track-protesters-trade-michael-froman/?dcz=


Protesters Arrested at Fast-Track Trade Hearing

Roll Call
By Hannah Hess
January 27, 2015

Capitol Police arrested three sign-carrying, slogan-shouting demonstrators who disrupted a Tuesday morning Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president’s trade policy agenda.

The protesters wore shirts reading “No Fast Track” and greeted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with signs stating, “Froman lies” — a response to his statement to the committee that trade promotion authority “is Congress’s best tool to ensure that there is ample time for public scrutiny and debate on U.S. trade agreements.”

Organizers claimed fast-track legislation limits the amount of time Congress has to consider agreements and suspends its ability to make amendments to the texts.

image001.png

Roll Call

By Hannah Hess

January 27, 2015



Capitol Police arrested three sign-carrying, slogan-shouting demonstrators who disrupted a Tuesday morning Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president’s trade policy agenda.

The protesters wore shirts reading “No Fast Track” and greeted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with signs stating, “Froman lies” — a response to his statement to the committee that trade promotion authority “is Congress’s best tool to ensure that there is ample time for public scrutiny and debate on U.S. trade agreements.”

Organizers claimed fast-track legislation limits the amount of time Congress has to consider agreements and suspends its ability to make amendments to the texts.

image001.png

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah engaged one protester in a brief back and forth, telling him he was “not representing your people well.”

Details on charges against the three protesters were not immediately available, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eco Links For December 2014-January 2015

I could probably do better, but here are a few links that caught my eye recently.

Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott provides a lot of convincing arguments and links that These Ubiquitous Chemicals May Be Making Us Stupid

Kids exposed to the highest levels of two common phthalates in the womb had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at the lowest levels.

Do avoid. But do read.

The Asahi gives us a hint that should be made more generally available; clearly, this is not advice "to Japanese men" but to all of us. Is this really the level to what newspaper editing has been reduced to? Anyway, important study.

Scientists to Japanese men: Eat your veggies, reduce stomach cancer risk

January 05, 2015
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Japanese men can reduce their risk of developing lower stomach cancer simply by eating a lot of vegetables, researchers at the National Cancer Center and other institutions found.

Yen for a Living provides some detailed insights to Japanese school lunches, and how they are paid for. Egalitarian, indeed, but also for too long, local political influence has been providing the wrong guidance to the people who are supposed to make sure kids get healthy food. I like how Sanjo City in Nagano, is trying to change that:

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. 

Or a generous serving of spinach and kale, without the trouble, providing much more easily available calcium than old milk.

Animal feed for dairy cows is imported from Brazil or North America, and is almost all genetically modified soy. Also, the destruction of the Amazon forests and other natural environments to raise cows for milk makes no sense at all. In Sweden, back in the mid 1970s, I was about 13 or 14 when the public schools made a vegetarian school food choice available, and now of course there are halal and other options to consider. Japan has a great system for its school lunches, but a debate is necessary that takes into account factors like animal welfare, climate change, biological diversity, peak oil... and a lot more.

The Guardian: Menstruation, the last great sporting taboo

Research differs as to the impact menstruation has on sportswomen’s performances. In 2011, a study of female rowers tested their heart rates, oxygen consumption, power output, blood lactate levels and other measures of endurance, and found no variation in the results, regardless of where a woman was in her menstrual cycle. But Women in Sport commissioned its own research (in 2010) and found “that in some circumstances, reduction in aerobic capacity and strength were exhibited,” says Ruth Holdaway, the charity’s chief executive. “It is important that sport understands and is sensitive to the potential impacts of the menstrual cycle for female athletes. This is not an issue that should be taboo for sport.”

Bloomberg: China Water Stress May Worsen Even With Water Projects

China has a fifth of Earth’s population yet only 7 percent of its freshwater resources.  

Ouch, good reporting there.

One thing I do like about living in Japan is the access to fresh water... Economists keep saying Japan has no resources, but isn't water the most important one? Forget about oil or - you name it. My veggies are doing great due to great soil and lots of rain and water from the well.

Speaking of healthy veggies,  Tokyo Urban Permaculture's first book is out!!! and the link goes to that. Looks like 186 pages (in J) of pure fun. I will file that under "organic" although I understand that there are many young veggie growers these days who are thinking and working way beyond that label.

I don't fully understand how it all happened but now there is an amazing book, crowd-sourced, crowd-funded, and exceptionally beautiful. A glorified zine!


Over 20 professional editors, writers, and illustrators were involved in this project, many who gifted their work, and about 380 people funded this project. It is a 400 person book project. And, while the book is self-published, my friends at MM books are leveraging their social capital to place our books at sympathetic (empathetic?) stores! Not only that, we are asking the stores to buy the books from us, meaning before its on the shelves, we've already sold them! I don't even know who is involved and doing what anymore. Its a project that keeps giving. And isn't that the world we want to live in? To plant seeds and harvest abundance? Thats the world I want to live in.



I hope this will revolutionize the Japanese permaculture movement, and transform the urban cultural landscape. The party continues....


Top image: Postcard I made back in 1992

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Japan: Tourism Troubles

I write a monthly column for Consumers Union of Japan's newsletter, and the theme for January is tourism. You have probably seen them, and read the statistics. Over 13 million tourists entered Japan in 2014, a record high. In fact, the number has doubled in the last 10 years. And for 2020, the government aims for 20 million.

Of course there are a lot of wonderful things to do and see. Possible troubles would usually be laughed off, a smile will save the day. There is an old saying, "When you embark on a journey, you will have a story to tell..."

Except, Japan is not prepared for this level of foreign interest in its culture or favourite places. In my column, I wonder why there is no place for redress or complaints, as more tourists will increasingly be encountering difficulties or disappointments. That's only natural, it happens at all popular destinations. But here, hotel staff often don't speak English, taxi drivers are an elderly bunch with a slow learning curve (most can hardly operate the GPS or Navi installed but also carry no book maps...) and few restaurants have menus in foreign languages.

I was shocked last fall when visiting Kyoto, and saw the crowds at popular places like Kiyomizu Temple. If a fire broke out, or if someone fell ill and needed an ambulance, there would be absolutely no way for rescue services to arrive. Many walking paths are also open to cars, making for close encounters with vehicles and pedestrians. Kyoto, in my opinion, has already reached the limit...

And even here in Tokyo, a JR station like Nippori, that has a direct link to Narita, still has no English train map. How is a freshly arrived tourist going to know how to take the trains, or what to pay? Come on, at least the nation's capital's Yamanote Line stations ought to be bi- or trilingual!?

Speaking of trains, why not provide more useful information about this country's amazing baggage delivery system? Takkyubin means you don't have to struggle with your heavy suitcase(s) anymore. Ship them! But most hotels provide no information about this useful service. Thus, you get tourists boarding the Shinkansen and other transportation, only to discover that there is no space for large luggage.

With over 5 million visitors last year from Taiwan and China, you would imagine that more places would care to hire Chinese-speaking staff. And we all know that even English is taught not for fluency but for passing tests. This means hurdles that Japan has failed to figure out ways to overcome.

What to do if your hotel room reeks of cigarette smoke? Do complain. Be polite (of course) but firmly demand a smoke-free room. If the hotel doesn't provide it, or is fully booked, and if you can show evidence that you actually asked for it when making your reservation, do ask to speak to the manager. And if that doesn't work, how about contacting the Japanese National Tourist Organization (JNTO). Currently, they don't have any services to help tourists in trouble. I think this is a consumer issue, and they need to start thinking hard about how to provide services when things go wrong.

Nippori station map from the cool type n travel blog!

Top image of a smoking hot volcano, from the JNTO website, of Sakurajima in Kagoshima.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

FY 2015 Budget: More Money For Solar, Renewable Energy

More money to efforts to get Japan more firmly on the track towards renewable energy? Green Gift is a project I really like. It encourages grandparents to give money to their children/grandchildren for use of renewable energy-based power.

Specifically, when grandparents give money to their children/grandchildren for the installation of solar power generation facilities or fuel cell-based co-generation systems, such money is exempted from gift tax.

I believe this is the first such project in the world.

Green Gift means grandparents can make a gift that contributes to the global environment while their children/grandchildren can reduce utility costs and gain an income from selling solar electricity.

Also, the installation of low-carbon-emission facilities and renovations for adding energy-saving facilities are expected to create business opportunities for local device/parts makers and contractors, energize local economies and revitalize local communities.

This system was proposed by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). Based on its own research, IGES concluded that 20% of the households headed by those who are in their 60s or older (about 4 million households) may give about ¥3 million (approx US$25,512) using the system.

The Green Gift tax system was included in the Outline of the Tax Revision for Fiscal 2015, which the ruling party decided on Dec 30, 2014, according to Nikkeibp.com.

While that makes a lot of sense, Japan needs a government policy that strongly supports renewable energy.

The FY 2015 Budget is some good news for a change, although as usual, too little too late. This should be a long-term strategy for Japan, in fact, for everyone.

Kyodo/Mainichi has more:

The government is expected to spend 4.4 billion yen for measures to lower the costs of solar power generation. It also plans to earmark 8 billion yen for further promoting geothermal power and 7.9 billion yen for developing technologies related to offshore wind power.

METI wants to set aside 93 billion yen ($779 million) to help factories and small-sized businesses install devices to improve energy efficiency such as light-emitting diode lamps and boilers with better efficiency. METI wants to spend about 81 billion yen in response to grid issues the country is facing in order to accommodate more renewable energy. This is necessary as more power companies try to provide solar power, in particular, to the power grid that was designed for large producers, such as nuclear plants. Also, the ministry wants to help set up energy storage systems at solar power stations or substations, which could also help people who just want to add some panels to their roofs. 


Renewable Energy World.com had an interesting analysis of Japan's situation last year, with data analysis by Junko Movellan:

According to the latest figures released by the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA), Japan installed 2.4 GW of on-grid PV capacity in the third quarter of this year (or second quarter fiscal year in Japan). This represents the second largest quarterly PV installation since the nation’s generous feed-in tariff (FIT) program launched in July 2012.

With the strong third quarter result, for the first nine months of this year, Japan installed about 7 GW of on-grid PV capacity. If Japan adds 3 GW more during this quarter, or an average 1 GW each month, Japan will no doubt hit the 10-GW mark. Data provided by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) shows a similar picture. 

Still, even if this trend continues, solar will only supply 2-3% of Japan's total electricity. It means Japan is way ahead of most other countries, and the race is on!






Friday, January 09, 2015

Performance Calligraphy!

I have been wanting to post about this for a while, there is this great movement to do group calligraphy, set to music, and it's like a mad dance really.

Groups of students clad in traditional hakama from different high schools even compete, in the annual Shodo Performance Koshien...

This is hard work and takes serious practice. It all seems to have started at a high school in Ehime, Shikoku, in Shikokuchuo, a town that specializes in making calligraphy paper.

The movie, Shodo Girls even made it to Cannes in 2010.

Saitama students from Matsuyama (first video below) are known to spend hours perfecting their cool routine.

Monday is Coming-of-age holiday, so here is a big cheers to all the youngsters in Japan!

Enjoy the videos.






Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Early January Food Post...

Today is Nanakusa Day, when people who like food traditions enjoy a set of seven herbs or 草 (kusa) which also means weeds, including tender greens and turnips that are added to rice.

One explanation I heard in the temple way back is that after over eating on the treats during the New Years Holiday, it was time for a simple fare. It is also the first harvest of the year, which is nice to celebrate.

I also learnt a new way to preserve veggies. 糠 (nuka) is just rice brans, the left overs after rice is polished. Thus you get classic nukatsuke, a way to keep anything from carrots to leafy greens a little longer. You also need salt, and I added about 100 g sea salt to 1 kg nuka. You can get nuka in most supermarkets, but do avoid the more pricy ones with flavourings and all kinds of bells and whistles...

Damien taught me a clever way to do this. Usually, people do nukatsuke in large deep pots, but since you need to move things around once or twice a day, that gets really messy. In a flat pot, however, just 10 cm deep, with a good lid of course, you have much better control. You can even move the veggies around with a spoon if you don't want to use your fingers.

I added miura daikon from my humble garten, and carrots. I plan to also add hakusai and maybe cucumber, which is great as nukatsuke, but since it is not a seasonal veggie - rather expensive in January.

Anyway, what a wonderful way to preserve your harvest and enjoy the added flavours!

Which brings me to Part 2 of this rant:

Oil prices are diving down below 50$ per barrel very suddenly, which indicates a collapse in consumption. That means the global economy is tanking. OK, so we have talked about that on Kurashi before. Reducing consumption is good for the planet, we need to conserve resources and start thinking about the long-term. But now it is happening so fast that the experts and politicians who are supposed to know about these things have no clue.

NHK had a brief segment about it tonight, expect to hear more about it during the next few days. Or make that during 2015.

Share prices in New York tumbled on Tuesday, as falling crude oil prices fueled concerns about the global economy. Sell orders were placed across the board after the latest US economic indicator fell below market forecasts. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 200 points during trading, but later recovered some of the losses on buybacks. It closed at 17,371, down 130 points from Monday. Market players say investors are selling stocks because it's hard to predict how far oil prices will fall.

For example, the kerosene used by many to heat their homes has gone from around 1900 Yen per 18 liters to around 1400 Yen per 18 liters. Gasoline here has also suddenly dropped from 160 to 130 Yen.

It also means Japan (and everyone else) will have a more difficult time exporting stuff, since, as Reuters puts it,  "A growing supply glut and weak global demand have pushed crude down by more than half from a peak above $115 in June last year, with prices down by more than 10 percent so far in 2015."

Nobuyuki Nakahara, a former oil executive and ex-member of the Bank of Japan's policy board, told Reuters he expected further price falls. "Oil prices are likely to keep falling due to slower Chinese growth and because the years of prices above $100 before the recent plunge were 'abnormal' historically," he said.

Meanwhile, for Japan, food imports are getting more expensive, and there are many reasons, including all of the above, and droughts in exporting countries and unrest in others, as well as Abenomics forgetting that Japan imports some 60% of its food.

They should do everything they can to help and encourage young people to get into farming.

And yes, at the bonenkai we had in late December over at Consumers Union of Japan, I met a group of young students who want to do exactly that! The plan is, "Half-ag, half-student" to paraphrase the popular term 半農半X (han-nou, han-X). It means, half-ag, half something else. These Waseda U students are especially interested in organic farming, and want to find land or space where they can start growing the good stuff!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Space Dandy - Ravel

Happy New Year, or as we say in Swedish, Glad fortsättning (Happy continuation..) just like in Japan, where there are 2 different greetings, one before, and one after the actual event.. But isn't it kind of curious that 正月 Shougatsu is celebrated religiously on December 31 each year at all shrines and temples, as a great tradition, even though the current calender was only introduced in the Meiji era?

Trying out some new equipment tonight, so, here we go, Space Dandy, a crazy anime that went viral as long ago as  last year. Recommended by my pals Spencer and Sharadan (hat tip). Anime, definitely, humour, maybe? Lovely tune by Ravel.

Song - Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte