Showing posts from September, 2015

TPP - The Irony Of Atlanta City & Gambling?

Am I the only one who thinks it is totally ironic that the US city of Atlanta is currently the locus of the "endgame" of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations? A city of gambling, basically. OK, I get it. They do have a sense of humour. Trade negotiators, as I have observed them since 1999 or so (in Seattle) are like guys in a poker game: They hold on to their hands and try to bluff the others that they won't lose. In the WTO talks, in Seattle, the entire third world, the so-called developing countries, the currently not-so-fortunate card-holders, suddenly stood up and said, enough is enough, this is a silly game, we are not playing anymore. Thus the World Trade Organization was brought to a halt. And it is like chess. By the time of the "endgame" (this is the 20th round of the TPP talks) you are left with not much room to maneuver, hardly any pieces left, and an opponent with a plan. You never really know how close you are to "chess mate."

"Clean Diesel" Scandal Hits Japan?

If you follow car news, or wonder about the future of mobility - and/or care about the air we breathe, well, then you must have noticed that Volkswagen was caught on September 3 by the biggest story ever. Diesel cars use engines that are pretty powerful on less fuel compared to gasoline, but they also have more emissions of CO2 and worse, the Nitrogen compounds known as NOx. These combine on hot summer days to form smog and ozone and really bad stuff that will actually kill people. So for a long time, diesel has had a bad rap, so to speak. Then car manufacturers tried to remedy that by introducing all kinds of systems to clean the exhaust. Except, due to the terrific work by a small NGO in the US with just a staff of 25 or so people, it was revealed that Volkswagen had put a computer program algorithm in its engines, that could detect if the car was being tested or not. In other words, if a test was going on, switch on the system to clean up the exhaust, and emit less NOx and o

Not So Smart

If you are a tech geek and like to buy new smart phones all the time, do consider this interesting graph from Compound Interest - not much recycling going on in the smart phone industry, unfortunately. Click to enlarge. Key quote: The problem with extracting rare earths is that they don’t tend to occur in particularly concentrated amounts in the crust. As such, the techniques required to extract them are costly and labour intensive, limiting the places in which it’s economically viable to bother extracting them at all. The processes used to extract them can also be environmentally hazardous, which is also a limiting factor; in 2010, China cut its exports of rare earths by 40% based on its concerns regarding pollution. With this in mind, recycling the rare earth elements at the end of their lives would seem to be a no-brainer. However, there isn’t a single rare earth element whose end of use recycle rate is greater than 1%.

No Deal For Abe On Friday?

None of the main stream media has so far noted that PM Abe may have lost a major battle on Friday, as he tried to enact the hugely controversial war bills that could allow Japan to engage in battle abroad. Opposed to this, a large coalition of people who want to maintain the current Article 9 of Japan's post-war Constitution. Over the past days and weeks, massive demonstrations outside the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, and in many other cities as well. It is going on tonight as I type this. So, yesterday, Abe and his right-wing Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (the political arm of the lay sect of 1950s style born-again Buddhist connected to Sokai Gakkai) seem to have failed to use their majority to enact this? Very confusing as main stream media has no updates late Friday. Confusing. Stay tuned for more. Update: Video from outside the Diet late Friday night: Update: As of midnight, NHK World has no news on the failure of "Japan's governing parties" to

How Japan Got Rid of America's Nuclear Weapons, in 1991 and 1992

"A major step forward to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons," Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said modestly. 235 The offload was not instantaneous, however. The withdrawal of the nuclear weapons was cleared by President Bush's approval of the 91-92 Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (NWDA) on November 5, 1991, which became National Security Directive 64 (NSD-64), 236 but it would take nearly nine months before all nuclear weapons were removed from the fleet. "We could get the weapons home faster," by sending out replenishment ships to bring weapons back, "but it would be dangerous. We don't want a weapon accidentally dropped over the side," a Navy official said. 237 Hans Kristensen Japan Under the US Nuclear Umbrella Section 5, "Nuclear War Planning in Japan" Introduction and Summary The Early Years The Battle over Okinawa  The "Secret" Agreement Nuclear War Planning in J

So, How Will the "War Bill" Deal With Nuclear Weapons?

The current debate in Tokyo's Parliament, the Diet, has not mentioned how Japan intends to deal with nuclear weapons, or nuclear defense. The current debate and the panic inside the Diet today is about "collective self-defense" but I am surprised there has been no mention of the role of nuclear weapons. I used to be impressed by how Prime Minister Eisako Sato got the Norwegian Nobel Peace Price, for Japan's three principles: non-production, non-possession, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons. Collective Self-defense. Take a deep breath, and try to define that concept. And tell us what Japan's nuclear umbrella means to you. I have not heard a single word about it, in the news, or the debate. has more: Deployment of Nuclear Weapons in Japan Allegations that the United States brought nuclear weapons into Japan despite the Japanese ban against nuclear weapons in its territory were frequent during the Cold War. Such allegations were a

Do Join The CUJ Facebook Page!

We resisted this for a long time, but social media is a way to reach out to more people. Do join Consumers Union of Japan, and our humble Facebook page, if you are so inclined. I wish consumer organizations in other countries would also pick up "peace" as a major theme. How about it? On the left in the photo, let me introduce Oono-san, who edits the Nikkan Berita website. Cool dude who lives in Chichibu, Saitama. He knows all about Okinawa, if you need a quote (or some history of the issue). Or labour issues, or more. On the right, our very special ladies from the No! GMO Campaign. They know even more about genetic engineering and why we shouldn't be eating the stuff,  than I do. If you like Facebook, do sign up!

Huge Demonstrations For Peace In Japan - 2015

Events this week could lead to a change in Japan's Constitution, but tens of thousands of people or even more are demonstrating on the streets to keep Article 9, that prohibits Japan from taking part in war zones abroad. I hope that of course, "War is Over" and that Japan will continue to contribute to peace. Great to see such mass events in front of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, where the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (do google them, why would a Buddhist sect support Japan going to war?) are arguing for Japan's right to collective self-defense and thus stepping into all kinds of war zones. The opposition parties need to get their act together. TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the Diet building in Tokyo on Monday amid growing public opposit

Et Tu, Tea???

Do you drink "English tea" from Harrods, or Earl Grey from Twinings? Thinking it is worth the heavy price? Or Kirin's Afternoon Tea? Maybe you think the NGO Rain Forest Alliance label makes it worth even a little extra? So did I, until BBC and others revealed indescribable conditions for the workers at the plantations at India's Assam tea plantations. Shocking. BBC: The bitter story behind the UK's national drink Several of Britain's biggest tea brands, including PG Tips, Tetleys and Twinings, have said they will work to improve the tea estates they buy from in India after a BBC investigation found dangerous and degrading living and working conditions. Harrods has stopped selling some tea products in response, and Rainforest Alliance, the ethical certification organisation, has conceded the investigation has revealed flaws in its audit process. The joint investigation by Radio 4's File on Four and BBC News in Assam, north-east India, found

"My Number" Becomes Law In Japan

Today, rather suddenly, Japan's government enacted a law that will give everyone living in Japan an ID number, and that means a lot of changes for our tax system here, as well as the social security/health insurance coverage/plus alpha* It also means Japan joins the ranks of nations where the government and its agencies can get much more data on its citizens. This includes the right to access our bank account information. Employers will be a big part of this system, as people working for firms will get their "My Number" through the company they work for. There is no opt-out, like in the US system (from 1936), or the Swedish system (from (1947) - back in that northern European bastion of civil rights (right...) you can get a temporary ID number if you need it, say for a sensitive medical examination or if you have other special reasons. Something for Japan to consider, as I point out in my September essay for the Japanese magazine we publish over at Consumers Union of