Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WHO And Meat Causing Cancer? Reaction In Japan!

Japanese media reacted on the huge news, from the Lancet study, showing that processed meat can cause cancer. Yomiuri Shinbun, that faithful defender of industry and the silliest ideas from these islands, together with huge ads for "health drinks" and all kinds of un-scientific fads, really, have you seen how page after page are half ads, half "articles" supporting the ads... It had this about the story, but only on its Internet page, not in its printed pages:

Yomiuri Shinbun: 加工肉に「発がん性認定」…WHO外部組織

("Processed meat can cause cancer ... according to WHO advisory body)

So anyway, all media sources here did cover the WHO story.

TBS said, 加工肉に「発がん性あり」、過剰摂取に注意呼びかけ 

("Over-consumption of processed meat can lead to cancer)

while Sankei News noted that ソーセージやベーコンは大腸ガンになるリスク WHO調査結果発表

("Sausage and bacon are risk factor for large bowel cancer, according to the WHO study").

The Mainichi also carried the story:  国際がん研究機関:「ベーコンなど加工肉に発がん性」

("International cancer institute says: "Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer")

Interesting to compare how the BBC covered the news:

Dr Teresa Norat, one of the advisors to the WHO report and from Imperial College London, said there were many factors causing bowel cancer. She told BBC News website: "People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Earth II (1971)

Interesting - if you like a proper Science Fiction yarn, set in space, and don't care so much for the next Star Wars movie. Here is a pretty realistic take at the challenges and conflicts on an imagined International Space Station, before that came to be. The issue is how to defend it, or try to make it stay in peace. Good quality acting, and the kid that gets his toy gun taken away is adorable. From back when the "Red" Chinese were the enemy...

Terrific music by Lalo Schifrin.

Friday, October 23, 2015

TPP Is Not Going To protect Our Environment

Not a big surprise, but if you follow the news, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is about to change the way business is made. And that takes some legal writ, as most countries are part of other obligations, such as the United Nations. Japan certainly is. But TPP does not care about such deals and treaties. The only ones they could agree on seems to be the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which generally requires countries to ban trade in specific endangered species.

It also seems TPP may suggest that the Environment Chapter will include obligations similar to those contained in the Montreal Protocol on protection of the ozone layer, and the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) -- without specifically subjecting these MEAs to the TPP dispute settlement mechanism.

As I noted back in January, 2014, when Wikileaks first exposed the TPP Environmental Chapter:

...there are a lot of other international treaties that are not covered, including for climate change and biological diversity (with more rules on issues like biopiracy, like the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) that TPP should cover, if it were to be acceptable.

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, October 15, 2015

Mystery Event - What is the GEA International Conference 2015?

NHK, also recently known as the "Abe Channel" said today that the Prime Minister "was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday."

NHK World: Abe: Japan will do its best for climate agreement

But NHK World would not tell us what NGO that was, so I did a search.

Neither google nor yahoo had any hints about a major NGO conference on October 15, 2015, so I went to the home page of the PM, and on its Japanese website (not very international) there was a note about today's event, GEA国際会議2015 (J).

So I searched for that.

And found nothing, neither in Japanese nor in English, nothing about today's "international" event.

Turns out, the "international environmental NGO" is an affiliate of the Japanese government, here: Global Environmental Action (E). Among its "Membership Companies" you get Mitsui and Mitsubishi. "Supporting Members" are Tokyo Gas and TEPCO.

Here is the link to the 2015 Japan GEA promotional pdf file (E)

And even the website of this "international NGO" has no update about today's events, neither in Japanese nor in English (or in any other language).

Not very "non-governmental" - and certainly not very "international" - Do I need to say more?

So, wow, just what did Prime Minister Abe promise to do?

Abe was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday. He said global-scale action is needed to tackle climate change and that he shares a sense of crisis with leaders of industrialized nations, islands and other countries. Abe said Japan will do all it can in Paris to forge a new global framework that is fair, effective and participated in by all countries. He stressed that Japan will fully use its low-carbon technology to help reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Abe also expressed intent to discuss global warming when Japan hosts the Ise-Shima summit of major nations next May.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Flight Nurse (1953)

I thought this was a terrific film, and as the Korean War is mostly known as the "unknown" or "forgotten" war we could all learn a thing or two from this motion picture, made back when the wounds were still healing. It is the story of a flight nurse, based on a true lady of the sky, Lillian Kinkella Keil, who died at the age of 88 in 2005.

My youngest aunt was a nurse in the Swedish Air Force, so I hope she gets to watch this. Sweden, as a "neutral" power tried to help the cease fire between the north and the south. The film has some baggage, but give it at try, it will help you understand the reality that later made M*A*S*H possible in the 1970s. So, let's not start another war, shall we...?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

TPP and GMOs? So Far, We Have Very Little To Go On.

Germany, France, Japan, and a lot more countries, have totally rejected genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while the US, Canada, Brazil, and a few others can't get enough of it. Even Australia grows the GM canola, and sells it to Japan as food oil. It is not properly labelled here, so Ajinomoto and Nisshin and others can sell it as "Salad Oil". Avoid food oils.

So how would the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement influence this state of affairs? Stay tuned, I don't really know. The TPP text is still kept secret. Japan has mandatory labelling laws that help consumers who want to know how their tofu or soy sauce was made. Even potato chips usually carry the label, "Not made from GMO potatoes" so stay tuned, we have very little to go on so far.

Update 1: This was just in the US radical magazine Mother Jones - I like this magazine a lot and especially this writer, Tom Philpott:

...Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Hansen-Kuhn also notes that the US trade representative's summary of the TPP contains this line: The "TPP Parties have also agreed to increased transparency and cooperation on certain activities related to agricultural biotechnology"—another way of saying genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. That's vague language, and the TPP's full criteria for GMOs has not been spelled out. But it certainly appears to place pressure on TPP countries that have opted not to use them, like Japan and Peru.

Update 2: October 6, 2015: Capital Press

• For biotechnology, TPP member countries will use science-based determinations, promote greater transparency in regulatory process and “engage in discussions about appropriate levels of low-level presence,” Vilsack said.

Update 3: Meanwhile, in Europe:

Germany will make use of new "opt-out" rules to stop GMO crop cultivation, even if varieties have been approved by the EU.
Christian Schmidt, German's Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, has informed state governments of his intention to tell the EU of Germany's intention to use the new clause, according to a letter from the agriculture ministry seen by Reuters.
The move follows pressure from five state governments for a nationwide ban on GMOs instead of the current “patchwork” approach which leaves it up to German states to decide on a ban.

Stay tuned

Monday, October 05, 2015

TPP Deal Announced Tonight

Historic - and I didn't think it would happen. I was at the Brunei ministerial meeting in August, 2013 and it seemed impossible. That was negotiation round number 19.

How would these 12 completely different countries ever be able to agree on anything? This last ministerial in Atlanta was to be a 2 day event, then that got extended to 5 days of hard negotiations. I wonder why NHK* is not saying a word about the demands - and promises - to protect Japan's agriculture, or the concerns about rising costs of medicines. Stay tuned.

And there was not a single ministerial round of negotiations here in Japan. That's quite a scandal considering Japan's role in the world economy. Also, it has made it more difficult to get people interested in the many related issues, not just for farmers but for everyone.

Update: Now even the announced press conference which was supposed to be held at 22:00 PM Japanese time is delayed... =>

Update 2: There will be an anti-TPP demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Tokyo on Tuesday, October 6 at 18:00-19:30  Info in Japanese here

Update 3: Note that this is not about "free" trade but how to "manage" trade:

OCT 2, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh

NEW YORK – As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

Update 4: More comments coming in by email from tpp-allies late tonight

Canada's government says:

If implemented, the agreement could mean:

— Elimination or reduction of tariffs on a broad series of products including pork, fruits, wines and spirits, canola, barley, machinery, minerals and forestry products. As one example, the beef industry expects to see exports triple to Japan, with a multi-year phase-out in tariffs there from 39 per cent to nine per cent.

— More foreign car parts likely entering Canada, likely benefiting producers and consumers but hurting some auto workers. Cars will be allowed without tariffs as long as they have 45-per-cent content from the TPP region. That's significantly down from the 62.5 per cent regional-content provision under NAFTA, which mostly kept out pieces from places like China and Thailand. But the formula is more complex than that: the government says it will "encourage" producers to use Canadian ingredients, parts and materials when making goods exported to other TPP countries. (...)

US Congress says (

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is signaling trouble for the newly concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership right out of the gate.

"While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short," Hatch said in a statement, likely in reference to the United States' inability to secure 12 years of patent protection for biological drugs, as he had demanded.

"Over the next several days and months, I will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether our trade negotiators have diligently followed the law so that this trade agreement meets Congress' criteria and increases opportunity for American businesses and workers," Hatch said. "The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the United States should not settle for a mediocre deal."

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who along with Hatch and Sen. Ron Wyden drafted the trade promotion authority bill, is reserving judgment for now.

"[O]nly a good agreement ... will be able to pass the House," Ryan said in a statement. "I am reserving judgment until I am able to review the final text and consult with my colleagues and my constituents. In particular, I want to explore concerns surrounding the most recent aspects of the agreement."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has fought against fast track and TPP, vowed to "do all that I can" to defeat the agreement in the Senate.

"Wall Street and other big corporations have won again," the presidential candidate said. "It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense."

Update 5: Foreman says, "TPP means 18,000 tax cuts..."

Update 6: Sierra Club, perhaps the most respected US environmental organization, says:

Monday, Oct. 5, 2015

Sierra Club: Congress Should Reject Polluter-Friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership
After much controversy, U.S. and Pacific nations strike a flawed trade deal

ATLANTA -- Today, the New York Times reported that the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached a trade deal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Sierra Club has been working tirelessly to expose the threats of this deal on communities, the environment, and our climate.

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

"Despite widespread, international opposition, the United States government is moving toward signing a trade deal that threatens our families, our communities, and our environment.

“Amazingly, the public is still not able to see the contents of a completed pact that has been negotiated entirely behind closed doors. But we know enough about the pact to understand that, if passed, it would undermine decades of environmental progress and threaten our climate. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would empower big polluters to challenge climate and environmental safeguards in private trade courts and would expand trade in dangerous fossil fuels that would increase fracking and imperil our climate. The TPP’s environment chapter might look nice on the surface but will be hollow on the inside, and history gives us no reason to believe that TPP rules on conservation challenges such as the illegal timber or wildlife trade will ever be enforced.

"Congress must stand up for American jobs, clean air and water, and a healthy climate and environment by rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

Image of Japanese farmers protesting in Tokyo on September 30, 2015 from Agri News

Key quote from Japanese JA, in a unique collaboration with other farm groups:

The demonstration was hosted by four farmers’ organizations including Japan Family Farmers Movement. After the rally, they met with a farm ministry official and urged the government not to expand rice imports, as reported to be mulled in the TPP negotiations, considering that rice farmers are already suffering from declining rice prices. They also submitted a letter of request to farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Update 7 (thanks Tom): The Guardian has more details than any other media source so far. Well done. Image - isn't it pathetic that there is only one female trade minister at the table, from Peru.

I would argue that trade negotiations are too caught up in male testosterone to really benefit the entire population as such...?

The TPP would give Japan’s automakers, led by Toyota Motor Corp, a freer hand to buy parts from Asia for vehicles sold in the United States but sets long phase-out periods for US tariffs on Japanese cars and light trucks.

Update 8: The New York Times thinks the TPP is going to do the "environment" a lot of good because it will "strengthen international environmental enforcement agreements" but the only example is CITES, the effort to protect illegal trade in items like elephant tusks. However, the NYT forgets that there are a lot more international conventions that the TPP does not mention (because the US is not a signatory to them). Typical trash article from the NYT, if you ask me, with a lot of information about stuff that has nothing to do with the TPP deal just reached in Atlanta.

The agreement complements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as Cites. The Cites agreement provides a list of animals and plants for which international trade is banned or restricted, and it is the world’s primary treaty to protect wildlife, with roughly 175 countries as members. Under provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, countries would be required to enforce laws and regulations to protect wildlife covered under the Cites agreement from illegal smuggling, or risk economic sanctions.

Which country in this region does not have laws already that incorporate CITES? China, I suppose, but they are not part of TPP. Rather than CITES, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has set the highest standards for protecting wildlife, but the New York Times perhaps hasn't heard of it... CBD is a global agreement addressing all aspects of biological diversity: genetic resources, species, and ecosystems. (But the US is not a signatory...)

Stay tuned.

* Weird, but the NHK journalist at the press conference in Atlanta was the only one to start his question by offering his "congratulations" to the ministers for concluding the deal. NHK has become the Abe Channel, indeed. Top image of a clearly disappointed and humbled trade minister Amari from - NHK World

Sunday, October 04, 2015

TPP - New York Times Gets It Wrong, Again

As I'm up late on Saturday night, Sunday morning, waiting for possibly any development from the Atlanta round of negotiations, I access the New York Times.
They have no particular update at this late hour. These talks were supposed to be the last effort by Wednesday. But I'm more disturbed by the sponsor, Syngenta, that appears all over the NYT website. Tonight, it was not what I expected. The Swiss corporation is known for its abuses all over the world. So, now, the NYT is supported by that GMO and pesticide and neonic producing company to provide us with news about the enormous trade deal here in the Pacific?

As I have previously noted here on this humble blog, why do we want a trade pact that allows for more sales of large cars, more milk and more meat, at the same times making it more difficult for countries to regulate medicines?

Isn't this a contradiction in terms? 

Shoko Uhida at PARC has the latest updates in Japanese, with more over at @emi_mumemo

NYT: Fueling Hope ???

Peter Maybarduk, director of a program of the social advocacy group Public Citizen that seeks to expand global access to medicines, called the language put forth by the United States “an illusion, not an improvement. It is a repackaging of the same harmful idea already rejected by many countries.”

Groups of protesters continued on Friday to try to interrupt the closed-door meetings throughout the hotel, shouting “No T.P.P.! No Secrecy!” At least two women were handcuffed and dragged away by security officials.