Showing posts from 2005


Last month, a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN. The question asked was... : "Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?" The survey was a huge failure because...: In Africa they didn't know what "food" means. In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" means. In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" means. In China they didn't know what "opinion" means. In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" means. In South America they didn't know what "please" means. In the USA they didn't know what "the rest of the world" means. (Earth picture from NASA, click to enlarge & enjoy!)

Rice farmers protesting against WTO

Rice farmers in Asia are protesting against trade talks in Hong Kong. Read more here . Quote: In Korea and Japan, rise approaches a sacred grain, part of 5,000 years of culture entwined with religious practices. Pascal Lamy, the WTO director general, should appreciate this. Last year when he was the European commissioner for trade, he spoke about the importance of agriculture. "Agriculture is not like coal, or widgets. It concerns the protection, preservation and promotion of a traditional rural way of life," he said. In Asia, the annual events of planting, transplanting and harvesting rice were a community activity marking the lunar calendar and reinforcing ties between families and harmony between humans. Consumers International is noting that the text on the table in Hong Kong does very little to improve trade for consumers in the South or choice for consumers in the North: "Important areas of the text remain anti-consumer, anti-development and anti-free tr

Stem cell scandal: The Stamp

The Korean stem cell scandal is on the front page of every newspaper in the world today. Just found the stamp that Korea issued, so I post it as a symbol of how this research made a whole country go mad. It turns out that Korean politicians were involved in the writing of the paper. Billions of tax payer Won have been wasted, that could have gone to wheelchair ramps, elevators, and other aids for people who also suffer discrimination because of their disabilities. Is Dr. Hwang guilty or not? What about the 25 co-authors? The worst is that they lied to people with physical handicaps, essentially claiming that "we will have a cure for you soon..." That stamp shows no compassion for all those in wheelchairs who will never be able to walk, successful stem cell research or not. (Picture from the Bioethics Blog )

Stem cell scandal: Updates

I found more details and a background on the website of Science magazine, where Dr. Hwang's "landmark paper" was first published. Today there will be a press conference at Seoul National University. I continue to be baffled about this story, and I'm impressed how Korean media has been able to reveal the truth about this complicated controversy. Read more here . Quote: The investigation comes amid a flurry of claims and counterclaims in the Korean media. On 10 December, a Korean news Web site called Pressian reported that it had seen a transcript from an unaired documentary by the Korean Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. MBC pulled the documentary, prepared for a weekly TV show called PD Notebook, in response to public outcry over allegations that the investigative team had coerced its sources; MBC later apologized for the investigative team's transgressions. Pressian claimed that in an interview for the unaired segment, a member of Hwang's team alleged that Hwan

Stem cell scandal: I can't believe it...

Stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk admitted his landmark work was fabricated and agreed to request that the journal Science withdraw his paper on it, his Korean scientific collaborator said Thursday. I'm not sure what is going on, because Dr. Hwang is not making any comments at all. Increadibly strange! Read the lastest tonight here , here and here . Photo: People in Seoul Station watch a primetime television news report that says stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk’s work was fabricated, Thursday night. Hwang’s scientific collaborator Roh Sung-il, appeared on television and disclosed the fabrication. (Source: The Korea Times) Update: BBC is also reporting about this, noting that "many commentators said it was unpatriotic to challenge someone who had given the country a lead in such a promising new area." I can't believe it... Stem cell scandal previous

WTO: "A level playing field"

This cartoon is quite funny, as a commentary on the rules of global trade. It is often said that the rules should be fair to all countries, but in reality, this is not the case. The playing field is clearly giving advantages to the western countries. The rest, or the so-called developing world (although I don't like that term) are not given a fair chance to compete. The WTO has a set of agreements that need to be changed. A common call from NGOs is "Shrink or Sink". The WTO got too powerful in the Uruguay Round negotiations in the 1980s, and unless the rules are changed, the WTO will collapse as countries start to negotiate bilateral or regional free trade agreements instead. So, what is the solution? Quote of the day: Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz has come to Hong Kong to collect an honorary doctorate and to sniff the air around the World Trade Organization conference. He agrees the talks have hit a sandbank, but he does not draw the conclusion this is a ba


BBC had this nice photo of Swedish school children who carry out a winter solstice tradition by dressing up as St Lucia Queen of Lights and her maidens.

NHK reporting from Hong Kong

Farmers around the world are watching what's going on in Hong Kong. The World Trade Organization has begun its biennial ministerial talks there. The members have been trying to create a common set of global trade rules for more than four years, so far without success. The United States and its allies are pushing trade liberalization including agriculture, while the other camp including Japan, remains firm about protecting domestic farms. NHK World's Shuhei Ikehata tells us more about the six-day ministerial talks. Delegates from 149 countries and regions are taking part in the talks. It's a crucial gathering. They're trying to achieve substantial progress towards a final agreement on trade liberalization before their self imposed deadline of December next year. Creating the new framework has stalled, mainly over agriculture. There are conflicting interests among the members. Japan, which imposes nearly 800 percent tariff on rice in order to maintain a stable supp

WTO protests have begun

In Hong Kong, protesters have held noisy demonstrations. Six days of world trade talks have begun in Hong Kong amid clashes between police and protesters, some of whom have managed to enter the conference. Protesting Korean farmers swam in the harbor, pepper gas was sprayed at the unruly and trade officials hoped for a breakthrough Tuesday in talks that most say are unlikely to produce an agreement. The Standard , the Hong Kong newspaper, has more details, with a great picture gallery here , updated daily.

Lots of snow

There was lots of snow today in northern Japan. Here is a great photo from Sapporo! It reminds me of Sweden, but, we never have such sunny days in December...


The kanji character for "love" was chosen in an annual poll as best representing 2005. Great! Seihan Mori, chief priest at Kiyomizu Temple, writes the kanji for "ai," (love), which was selected as the character for 2005 in the annual Kanji of the Year contest held by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation. Organizers said voters may have been influenced by such events as the marriage of the former Princess Nori and the outpouring of aid to victims of disasters like Hurricane Katrina in the U.S The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation said the character received about 4.7% of the 85,000 votes cast, and it is the first time that a "heart-warming" character was picked since the foundation started holding the event 11 years ago.

Japan will allow imports of North American beef again

Japan's government approved the easing of a two-year-old ban on U.S. and Canadian beef imports Monday, in a move that could resolve a bitter trans-Pacific trade row, says Mainichi Shinbun. This will allow meat from cows under 21 months old back into the Japanese market. It was not immediately clear when the U.S. meat would again appear in Japanese supermarkets and restaurants, but Kyodo News agency and NHK have reported that North American meat could be back in Japan by the end of the year. Read more here Tyson Food sees no future in Japan? Read more here BSE/food safety previous

Happy Monday...


Results in Montreal

"If you want to talk about global consciousness, I'd say there's one country that is focused on action... dialogue... co-operation and... helping the developing world, and that's the United States," said state department spokesman Adam Ereli in Washington. Despite the row, environmentalists said the conference had been in most respects a success, reaching agreements on how to quantify gas emissions and how to penalise nations for failing to meet Kyoto targets. BBC has more here .

Doubts linger about North American beef

Japan's Food Safety Commission finalized a report Thursday declaring U.S. and Canadian beef from cattle younger than 21 months will be as safe as domestic beef, as long as the U.S. adheres to certain conditions, according to the Japan Times . The completion of the report secures the way for U.S. imports to resume as early as year's end. The article also notes that food safety advocates argue that the U.S. policy of testing 10 percent of all cows -- only those that show visible signs of disease -- looks inadequate compared with Japan's requirement that all slaughtered beef cows 21 months or older be tested. It may take up to two months before North American beef is sold again in Japan, if the government should choose to approve it in December, and it will never again be the unregulated mass import that Japanese consumer were used to before mad cow disease was first found in North America in 2003. Update from BBC on December 12, 2005 here BSE/food safety previous


Today, as every fan knows, markes the 25th anniversary since John Lennon was shot and killed outside his home in New York City. Yoko Ono Lennon has given Amnesty International a wonderful and generous gift: the rights to use her late husband's song "Imagine" in a campaign for human rights. In her words: Those who know the song 'Imagine' understand that it was written with a very deep love for the human race and a concern for its future. It is about the betterment of the world for our children and ourselves. Like the song, Amnesty International gives a voice to the importance of human rights. And like the song, it has been able to effect change. Click here for Amnesty's original version of the song, performed by children from all over the world. Peace...

Getting ready for Christmas in Japan

The air is tingling with the jingling bells of Christmas — piped through store loudspeakers of course. In this season to be jolly, Yomiuri Weekly (Dec 18) was curious to learn how imbued Japan's populace has become to the spirit of Christmas. So to find out, it polled 500 adults about their gift-giving plans for this coming Dec 25. Japan Today has the rest of the story here . Shibuya, Roppongi and other areas of Tokyo look truly great right now, with lots of Christmas lights and decorations. (Photo from Venusfort in Odaiba)

Taking care of forests

C.W. Nicole writes about forests in his latest essay for The Japan Times. He is always an inspiration. Did you know that only 2 percent of Japan's forests are so-called "old-growth" i.e. "natural" and not planted? Read more here . This quote also caught my attention: Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced to the press in October that two-thirds of the cedar plantations in Greater Tokyo will be changed to mixed woodland. This will mean trimming out some 20,000 hectares of sugi and either replanting with broadleaf saplings, or carefully nurturing young broadleaf trees that spring up in the cleared spaces. The declared intention is to do this at a rate of 120 hectares a year. The dynamic proposal also calls for the remaining one-third of the cedars to be replaced with ones that produce less pollen. If it is carried out, I think this would be splendid. This website har wonderful photos of really old trees from different regions all over Japan. Enjoy the magic of thes

Project X: Rose of Versailles

NHK's Project X shows on Tueday nights are so good! Tonight was about the manga "Rose of Versailles" that became a big hit in Japan in the 1970s. The NHK show also explained how it was moving ladies to tears as a takarakuza musical... The story about the Swedish count Axel von Fersen and French Queen Marie Antoinette is a wonderful love legend. And the manga really brought the characters to life. This fan site has all the details! von Fersen was a freemason, who introduced a lot of culture to Scandinavia. Later, after king Gustav III was killed, he was brutally murdered on the streets of Stockholm... Here is a link to von Fersen's castle in Sweden . Project X previous

Demonstrations for action on climate change

This weekend 40,000 people marched in the streets of Montreal to demand stronger action on climate change. They joined with thousands of other people around the world who also participated in rallies and events. In London, 5,000 to 10,000 people marched for our climate. A petition of 600,000 signatures from American citizens demanding action to fight climate change was presented to the American consulate in Montreal. Citizens from around the world made their demands very clear: our leaders must take serious action to prevent climate change, and they must do so now. On the hilarious Fossile of the Day Award site, Japan is getting awards for supporting "sinks". All green plants can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, although thay also release it again. Anything that removes carbon dioxide is known in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations as a "sink". So, rather than actually reducing CO2 emissions, countries are using "sinks" as a way to argue that the

"A crying shame"

"Japan is now about to rob these natural treasures of their habitats. It's a crying shame," said Higashionna. "We are going to disgrace ourselves before the world." Read why the Okinawan diving instructor is so upset here .

Stem cell scandal part III

The scandal in Korea regarding stem cell research has taken another weird detour as one of the junior staffers under Korean stem cell pioneer Hwang Woo-suk on Sunday said the nation's broadcaster MBC threatened him to get information unfavorable to Hwang. According to the Korea Times Kim Son-jong, the feeder cell expert who is now at the University of Pittsburgh, on Sunday made the remarks during an interview with the all-news cable channel YTN. Chosun Ilbo has more: An MBC executive said if the expose turned out to be false, it would deal a fatal blow to one of Korea’s largest terrestrial broadcasters. Another executive said many within MBC were skeptical about the “PD Diary” allegations, but all MBC staff were now being tarred with the same brush. He agreed that the company would not be able to bounce back if the allegations are disproved, but added he still had faith that the “PD Diary” team would not have done what they did without evidence. Stem cell scandal previous

Oh my love

John Lennon was always a favourite of mine. Tomorrow, the BBC is realeasing tapes from his angry 1970 interview, where he took the opportunity to lash out against all the hype around the Beatles. Here is a link to his great song Oh my love (The photo is from Hakone, it seems John & Yoko stayed at Fujiya Hotel )

Stem cell scandal part II

In South Korea, controversy is intensifying over the scientific breakthrough by a South Korean stem cell expert. The debate centers around allegations by Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. (MBC) that some of the embryonic stem cells created in May by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's team may be fake. This is a really serious allegation, but the program has evidence to back up the claim. Actually, I think the Korean journalists are showing some world-class reporting skills as this story continues to unravel. Good science reporting is always fascinating. It will be very interesting to see how this all ends... Yonhap has all the details . Stem cell scandal previous

Kotooshu promoted to ozeki

The Japan Sumo Association approved the promotion of Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu to ozeki on Wednesday, making him the first European to reach the sport's second-highest rank. Kotooshu's promotion was finalized at a meeting of JSA executives and officials who worked on the rankings for the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January. The 22-year-old is the first ozeki since Asashoryu was promoted in July 2002 and the fifth foreign-born ozeki, according to Kyodo. I wish him well, and can't help to look forward to the New Year basho.

Fossile of the day award

This site, called the Fossile of the Day Award is a joint project by many NGOs trying to raise awareness about what different countries are doing during negotiations regarding climate change. You can see a short intro video, then click to enter the main page. And you can find out what different countries, like the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia or Japan, have been up to behind the scenes... Great idea! Enter here . Climate change previous

Kyoto Protocol in the news

NHK has had extensive coverage today about the UN Kyoto Protocol meeting in Canada, explaining that delegates from 189 countries and regions are attending the meeting in session until December 9. It is the first conference of its kind since the Kyoto Protocol took effect in February this year. Delegates will discuss ways to implement the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to cut carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2012. Also, Asahi Shimbun writes in an editorial that the signs coming from the Japanese government have not been very encouraging: There are wide disagreements within the government over the future of the Kyoto Protocol. While the Environment Ministry is arguing for the establishment of similar targets to prune greenhouse emissions for the second term, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is lukewarm at best about the idea of new binding targets. The government should swiftly build a consensus among policy-makers in l

UN Kyoto Protocol meeting in Montréal

Starting today, Canada will host the first meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montréal in conjunction with the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention. Official documents and daily updates here . Official UN Webcast (with videos) page here . Blog with updates through the lenses of activists traveling thousands of miles to witness this historic conference here . BBC is covering this important meeting while Japanese media seems to have missed the opportunity to raise awareness about global warming, as Japan's CO2 emissions continue to increase. Climate change previous

"Absurd" reactions in Korea

The news that stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk lied to science magazine Nature and other international media, has caused a massive uproar in South Korea. But? Not in the way you would expect. Now the president has stepped into the debate to try to calm the public. Read more here . "...supporters for Hwang quickly launched organized salvos at producers of the MBC program and the broadcasting network. Some even threatened to kill family members of the producers, posting their photos on the Internet. They argued the program was 'against national interests.' A group of protesters also staged a candlelight demonstration in front of MBC headquarters in Yoido, Seoul, Saturday. Among some 50 of them was disabled pop singer Kang Won-rae. The protesters said they will launch a signature-collection campaign against MBC. Fearing further public rancor, 11 out of 12 advertisers for the MBC program have decided to withdraw their advertisements." I think MBC did the right thing

Toxic leak reaches Harbin, China

BBC reports that Chinese newspapers have grown more explicit in their criticism of the official response to the toxic leak which has hit the north-eastern city of Harbin. Commentators in Beijing and further afield condemn the 'lies' told before the authorities revealed what had really happened, although a paper in Harbin itself tries to play down the crisis. A Beijing paper also worries about the country's environmental record. Read more here . There is also concern in Russian towns in the Far East according to Reuters . Chronology: 13 Nov Explosion at petrochemical plant, Jilin city 21 Nov Water to Harbin city cut off; local government cites mains maintenance 22 Nov State media say water could have been contaminated after the blast 23 Nov Authorities admit very high levels of benzene have been found in the water 23 Nov Authorities say 100 tonnes of benzene emptied into the Songhua river "...the Jilin corporation denied the pollution of river water three days ago

Persimmon season

This is the season when kaki , or persimmon, are ripe and ready on the trees in Japan, looking so lovely against the bright blue sky... (Photo from Mikan Moblog )

Is your apartment earthquake-proof?

Mainichi Shimbun reports that worried residents are calling to ask about the safety of their apartment buildings, following an announcement by the Chiba Prefectural Government that a scandal-hit architectural office accused of falsifying earthquake resistance data worked on 194 buildings across 22 prefectures. At the center of the investigation scandal is the Aneha Architect Design Office. Chiba Prefectural Government officials conducted an investigation into the 194 buildings, including 21 problem structures that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport had already listed. Tokyo Association of Architectural Firms set up an inquiry section on Monday, and since then it has received about 60 inquiries, including those from people worried about new homes they are planning to move into. Read more here and here . The problem seems to be that the state-authorized building inspection agency eHomes failed to carry out proper checks in the process of building confirmation. This ag

Declaration of Helsinki

Update: Prof. Hwang Woo-suk has announced his decision to step down from all governmental and social positions which he concurrently holds, including his chairmanship of the World Stem Cell Bank . Read more about Thursday's press conference in Seoul here . BBC says the cloning pioneer is disgraced, as he admitted he had not told the truth to the medical journal Nature. Not only did he lie, he also broke an international ethical code, the Declaration of Helsinki from 1964. It deals with issues related to biomedical research involving human subjects, particularly the following condition: When obtaining informed consent for the research project the physician should be particularly cautious if the subject is in a dependent relationship with the physician or may consent under duress. Stem cell scandal previous

Support for Dr. Hwang in Korea?

The Korean web site of news magazine show "PD notebook" has been bombarded with criticism after its program, aired on Tuesday, reported that Hwang Woo-suk (who is trained as a veterinarian) used traded ova. The netizens challenged the reports, saying financial compensation should be given to donators. In a poll conducted by the nation`s major portal , more than 70 percent netizens said that paying for egg donors is not ethically problematic. Although I'm usually suspicious of Internet polls, which are never scientific, I also have no doubt that this issue will continue to be passionately debated in Korea. There are reports that the Korean government plans to issue a stamp with Dr. Hwang's picture, and so many Koreans seem to think he should get the Nobel prize. Stem cell scandal previous

Stem cell lies

The scandal about Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk got more serious, after a TV program on Tuesday that revealed that women were paid for donating their eggs. In an editorial, the Chosung Ilbo writes: What matters is that a document supplementing the Hwang team's stem-cell cloning research paper published in the journal Science in February last year states, "Eggs used for the research were donated voluntarily; none of the egg donors, their families and relatives received any benefit from the donation." It appears Dr. Hwan lied to the scientific community. There are serious risks to the women whose ova are "harvested", according to experts : Getting a single egg out of an ovary would require a fairly simple surgery under sedation. But women naturally produce only one or two mature eggs a month, and fertility doctors try to get at least 10 ova from each surgery. So the doctors prescribe a battery of hormones that prompt that many eggs to ripen a

Changing to better paper in your office?

Askul , a Tokyo-based company that supplies a lot of paper to Japanese officies, has announced its "Procurement Policy for Paper Products" as a guide for Askul-brand paper products, says Japan for Sustainability . Askul will give priority to the following raw materials: 1) "Recycled pulp" produced through the effective use of waste paper and other waste wood 2) Pulp certified with forest certification for proper management 3) Pulp from a properly managed secondary forest or plantation forest. The company has conducted traceability surveys on raw materials used in all seven series of Askul photocopy papers since 2004, and discussed the results with each paper manufacturer to promote "green procurement." The company says it will continue to promote green procurement by shifting to the raw materials designated in the procurement plan and complete this shift by the end of fiscal 2005. This is perhaps a good step, but it still sounds too vague for

Sony BMG in trouble

Thomas Hesse, President of Sony digital business division has been quoted as saying: "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" This is in response to the revelation that Sony employed rootkits as part of a copy protection scheme for their CDs. A rootkit is a way to hide files, registry keys and system objects from other software such as scanners and security programs. All this is installed on my pc when I play a Sony CD. In other words, Sony has secretly been installing software on people's pc when their CDs are played. That is just stupid. What really makes me mad is the attitude of people like Thomas Hesse, who thinks I have no right - or no way - to know what they are doing. Wikipedia has a great site with updates about the Sony controversy . Sony has published a list of titles using this technology.

Ethics and "harvesting"of ova

I don't like genetic engineering. I just have a gut feeling that it is wrong to manipulate DNA for profit. The debate about genetically modified foods have been raging for 10 years, and is not ebbing. Worse yet, some companies want to genetically modify animals. The debate about genetic manipulation of stemcells is even more complicated. Hwang Woo-suk , a pioneering genetic scientist at Seoul National University, has been dealt another accusation that he may have used eggs collected from one or more of his junior associates in his stem cell experiments. This type of research is extremely risky and many people all over the world have reacted against it. Read more about the scandal here and here : "...up to 10 percent of women who undergo such ovarian stimulation to procure eggs, experience severe after-effects including infertility or death." International Herald Tribune has some good insights too as to why all this is becoming very problematic. Nature is keeping

Meager APEC results

President Roh Moo-hyun, center, in front row, poses for a photo along with 20 other leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Busan (or Pusan, according to the old romanization system). The leaders are wearing Turumagi, a traditional Korean overcoat, of the pastel color they chose themselves, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. APEC has played a major role in trying to get Asian countries to adopt modern environmental technologies. Resolving problems such as global warming and ozone depletion, air and water pollution is especially critical for the APEC economies. The APEC Virtual Center for Environmental Technology Exchange (APEC-VC) is a strong and growing force in the Asia-Pacific region working to address these issues. This project helps APEC economies, municipalities, corporations and environment-related institutions share, via the Internet, information on environmental technologies. Much like an "environmental technology exhibition,"

Rice harvest

Today was so sunny and nice, but I was indoors most of the time. I was working so much recently, doing all kinds of proof-reading jobs. Would I be happier if I had a rice field and got to do the harvesting? How brief this era of computers, mobile phones and television is. Oh, and here is a link in case you want to hear Taxi driver by Myrra: I'm in a hurry to get where I'm going I can't believe the things that are slowing me down and keeping me Have a nice weekend! (Photo from this website .)

APEC: Protests in Korea

The APEC meeting has begun with the usual celebrations. A surprise was that South Korea president Roh agreed to meet with Japan's prime minister Koizumi. There were some protests against Koizumi. Anyway, a lot of people are protesting on the streets. Will this be the Seattle of Asia...? Actually, I'm often surprised how superficially media treats these big meetings. Have a look at this site where Japan's foreign ministry has already published the joint statement of the APEC meeting. From my point of view, they are producing a document that shows no concern for environmental protection, or consumer health. That is really seriously disappointing.

APEC meeting in Busan South Korea

Leaders from 21 countries around the Pacific Ocean will convene the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit today under a main theme of "Advancing Freer Trade" in the region, according to The Korea Times . The first meeting of the two-day summit, known as the Retreat, will open at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO), the organizers said Thursday. Then the leaders will meet with the APEC Business Advisory Council to hear their recommendations on key international issues such as ways of reviving the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s so-called Doha Round of trade negotiations. Read more here . The Busan Metropolitan Police Agency warned it will deal strictly with any disturbances. After anti-U.S., antiglobalization activists vowed to rally 100,000 people against the summit today, the agency designated special zones around the summit venues where rallies are banned, according to The Korea Herald . Civic activists said that the Busa

China's top environmentalists

Competition in an online poll to elect China's top 5 environmentalists is heating up, according to China Daily . Voters are currently faced with a shortlist of 20 nominees, but by the end of the month five will have been selected as China's Green Figures of 2005. The list of 20 candidates came out last week, based on 35,823 Internet votes, letters and phone calls to the organizing committee. The five winners will be announced at the opening ceremony of China's Environmental Cultural Festival at the end of this month. Tian Guirong, a farmer-turned battery seller, is one of the nominees. "When I read a 1998 report about pollution caused by the improper disposal of waste batteries, I was shocked," she told People's Daily. "I asked myself how much land and water would be polluted by the 3 million batteries I sold every year?" Tian, in her 50s, lives in Xinxiang, Central China's Henan Province. Since 1998, she has voluntarily collected waste b

Stop war...

The Anti-War Joint Action Committee held a rally against the Iraq war in Tokyo on November 6, 2005. The many protests have perhaps not be widely reported outside of Japan. I wonder why? This time, 4600 workers gathered in Hibiya Outdoor Large Music Hall, and staged "National Workers Rally". As representative of Labor union, 22 workers from Korea and 14 workers from U.S. also participated. Some famous protests in Japan's history include Shimabara rebellion (1637-38), Saigo Takamori's uprising against the Meiji emperor (1877), mass demonstrations against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (1960), as well as numerous anti-nuclear campaigns .

Don't destroy Yoyogi Park!

Tokyo has few parks compared to other world cities. More trees, not more concrete, is what everyone wants. Well, perhaps not everyone? Terrie Loyd's article about the possibility of a plan to destroy Yoyogi Park raises some good points and even includes suggestions what you can do to protest: "... it was with some shock that we read on Oct 29 in the Yomiuri Shimbun of a 1 trillion yen Tokyo government plan to possibly raze the park and build an Olympic stadium, should Tokyo win the right to host the 2016 Olympics. The plan, which was leaked by the Yomiuri and seemingly by no one else, appears to involve "redeveloping" 71.4 hectares of land that includes Yoyogi Park, and 35 hectares of the Outer Gardens of Meiji Shrine. In other words, pretty much every piece of greenery and most of the trees that form this oasis in Shibuya Ward." Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Pat Schmitt, chairman of the IOC Sport and Environment Commission, said environmental issues ar

Protests against APEC meeting in Korea

Many Koreans are protesting against the APEC meeting in Pusan next week. Kang Ki-kap of the Democratic Labor Party stages a hunger strike for the 18th consecutive day against the move to ratify Korea's rice deals, at the main staircase of the National Assembly in Yoido, Seoul, Sunday. "The right to live of some 3.5 million peasants are at peril because of the United States’ push to open the rice market," said the KPL, which combines dozens of local peasants’ councils, in a statement. "We demand the APEC forum, which serves to support the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), be stopped immediately." The South Korean government should take a lesson from the case of the Summit of Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina last week that "failed to come to agreement due to strong protests from the South American people against the U.S. and U.S. President George Bush," the statement said. Otherwise the peasants will wage a &q

South Korea-Sweden

Sydkorea Sverige 2-2 7' Ahn Jung-Hwan 9' Johan Elmander 52' Kim Young-Chul 57' Markus Rosenberg Nice game in Seoul, I could hear it on Swedish web radio live. The Korean supporters are wonderful!

A heated bra to save the world?

BBC was first with this news: Triumph, a leading lingerie company has joined Japan's fight against high fuel use, unveiling a heated bra for winter. The fluffy creation contains special pads filled with an eco-friendly gel that can be easily heated in a microwave or with a hot water bottle. The design also includes a furry boa designed to double as a winter scarf. Mainichi Shimbun says Triumph designed the bra for the government's "Warm Biz" campaign, which aims to combat global warming by reducing the excessive use of heaters during the colder parts of the year. While the "Warm Biz" bra, which comes together with a pair of thermal fabric shorts, will not be sold, Triumph said it will use the materials developed over the two months it took to make the undergarment in other products. Japan's Environment Ministry has a good English website, but the news about Warm Biz is only in Japanese.

Nikko: colours in the autumn

Now is the best time in Japan... Really! The weather is fine, and the autumn colours are wonderful. This photo is from Nikko, north of Tokyo. More photos from this webiste.

A few of my favourite things...

This is a lovely song by Lee Sang-Eun , but what I really like is her album cover. Can you see that blue Renault 4? That's a French car that my father had when I was a kid, actually he had two of them, a blue one and a red one. So many memories, and so many nostalgic photos when I check this page ! Official Renault history here . I don't know a lot about either cars or computers, but I like good writing, so when a good writer is clever enough to compare his iBook to a Renault 4, it immediately catches my attention. OK? In 1981, my father abandonded his second Renault 4, and opted for a Toyota Starlet instead. This page is dedicated to all Toyota models since 1932. More Toyota history here .

Chronology of avian flu in Japan reports that authorities in Japan ordered the culling of 180,000 chickens at a poultry farm in Ibaraki prefecture, north of Tokyo, after avian flu antibodies were found in the birds. Reuters adds that tests showed that chickens had been exposed to the H5 strain of avian flu, although the virus itself was not detected. A total of 1.48 million chickens have been culled in Ibaraki prefecture between June -- when a bird flu outbreak was first detected there -- and mid-October. Japan Offspring Fund has published a chronology of avian flu outbreaks in Japan. Bird flu previous .

Childhood obesity in Japan

Kyodo reports that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has decided to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity by promoting healthy diets for children. The ministry will designate 10 districts in five prefectures as model areas where it will work to reduce the number of overweight children together with schools, households and communities. The areas will be required to develop their own programs to fight the problem, officials said. Nine percent of fourth-graders were diagnosed as obese in 2003, up from 5.9% in 1982, while 10.8% of seventh-graders were, up from 7.3%, according to an education ministry survey. Meanwhile, McDonald's introduced an ad campaign with a super-skinny, in my view anorexic female model to attract Japanese customers to its greasy burgers. Faced with concerns over obesity and the negative portrayal of its products in the film SuperSize Me , McDonald’s has questioned whether even its famous Golden Arches have become a liability, according t

Inspections reveal kimchi problems in Korea

The Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) said Thursday that it had found parasite eggs in 16 of the 502 domestic-made kimchi products it examined recently. According to The Korea Times , the announcement deepened the public fear over the safety of kimchi sold in markets, which first erupted when the regulator announced they discovered parasite eggs in a batch of Chinese imports last month. "...authorities exaggerated its first report on the safety on Chinese-made kimchi and tried to downplay the concerns when parasite eggs turned up in Korean products. They have failed to deliver adequate information to consumers," said Park Kyung-sun from the civic group Green Consumer Network . It is good that they do inspections, but another issue is Risk communication . This kimchi scare is a textbook example of how sensitive food safety issues are. KFDA should have started out testing domestic kimchi, made efforts to improve domestic standards, following up with applying the

Giant jellyfish (kurage)

Giant jellyfish (kurage) is causing problems for the fishing industry off Japan's coasts. Millions of jellyfish have appeared this year, apparently due to overfishing and environmental problems along the coast of China, where they originate. China is not sufficiently taking care of its raw sewage, according to experts and this has led to an explosive growth in the jellyfish population this year. Some of them are up to 2 meters in diameter, destroying fishing nets. I'm doing a program about this for NHK this week, but it wasn't until I saw the photo that I understood how massive these creatures really are.

Public opinions about banned U.S. beef

The government's food safety panel decided Wednesday to collect public opinions on a report drafted by its research group recommending an end to the two-year-old ban on U.S. and Canadian beef, government officials said. According to Kyodo News, the Food Safety Commission will accept comments until November 29, 2005 before finalizing the report, the officials said. The commission will sponsor meetings in seven cities across the nation from November 14 to exchange opinions on the issue. The seven are Sapporo, Osaka, Sendai, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Nagoya and Tokyo. Painting by H. Bosch BSE/food safety previous .

Jazz in Omiya

Tomorrow is a national holiday, and I suddenly got a chance to go and hear some live jazz tonight, with a trio led by pianist Sachiko Yasui. Standard jazz numbers like "I Can't Give You Anything but Love". Nice! More here . (Photo by Takahashi-sensei!)

Korean kimchi banned in China

The Korea Times reports that China has slapped an import ban on South Korean-made kimchi and side dishes in retaliation against Seoul’s steps to strengthen quarantine against Chinese kimchi following the discovery of parasite eggs in them. The products banned by Beijing included kimchi, red-pepper paste and seasoning for pulgogi, produced by 10 companies. The ban came a day after the Chinese authorities announced on Monday that parasite eggs were discovered in the South Korean food made from red peppers and cabbage. In response, the Seoul government said on Tuesday that it will conduct investigations into the affected products to determine the truth of the allegations, while trying to hold a high-level consultative meeting to resolve the looming "kimchi trade war" before it gets out of hand. Read more here . NHK notes that the South Korean Government has questioned the credibility of China's announcement that parasite eggs were discovered in food products imported fr

Consumer activists protest against U.S. beef

(Photo: Reuters) Mainichi Shimbun and other media reports that activists from the Consumers Union of Japan protested against U.S. beef imports in Tokyo's Ginza shopping area. Japanese consumer groups said they would launch a campaign to boycott U.S. beef, banned from Japan for nearly two years on concerns about mad cow disease, if the government decides to resume imports. BSE/food safety previous

Heart Sutra

Today is the anniversary of my grandfather's birthday. In Japan, Buddhist sutras are read daily at temples and at a family altar on anniversaries related to life and death. By a lucky coinsidence, a link appeared to the Heart sutra (Flash), in Japanese called Hannya Haramita Shingyo, so I invite everyone to listen. The central passage is "shiki soku ze ku ku soku ze shiki" which translates as "emptiness is form and form is emptiness". I love how this sutra connects ancient India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan - and recently, America and Europe as well. Read more here and here . The photo is from the gate at Sogenji, my Rinzai zen temple in Okayama prefecture.

Japan's constitution

There is a debate in Japan about the country's constitution. Most attention is on the wording about the military and Article 9 . The new draft that has recently been approved by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party also eatures five types of individual rights not stated in the current Constitution pertaining to government information, intellectual property, the environment, personal data protection and dignified treatment for disabled people and crime victims. Wikipedia has an interesting background to the background about Article 9, citing the spirit of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war. Read more about the debate about Japan's new constitution here .

U.S. beef ban leading to trade war

Kyodo reports that the Japanese Embassy has criticized a U.S. Senate bill calling for retaliatory tariffs over Japan's 22-month-old import ban on U.S. beef, and issued an explanation of what Japan was doing to end the impasse. "We are disappointed," the embassy said in a statement distributed to news organizations soon after 21 senators introduced the bill to impose punitive tariffs worth $3.14 billion annually on Japanese products by the end of the year if Japan fails to end the import restriction. In a press conference, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato said, "It's not a productive move." U.S. beef is also banned in Korea, and has been banned for over 10 years in Europe. In Tokyo today consumer organizations are arranging a demonstration with street performances to protest against U.S. beef imports. I'm trying to find photos. BSE/food safety previous

Project X: Judo in Olympics

Tonight, NHK's program series called "Project X" deals with Judo as an Olympic sport. I love the images from Tokyo Olympics in 1964. I work right next to the Olympic Stadium, designed by architecht Kenzo Tange, and it is a truly great monument. Ian Buruma has described the open weight Judo contest in the 1964 Olympics. The Japanese expected their Judo champion, Kaminaga Akio to win against his huge Dutch opponent, Anton Geesink. Such a victory would have signaled the "superiority of Japanese culture, of the Japanese spirit". But, Geesink won. The Japanese around the mat actually cried... "Once again, Japanese manhood had put to the test against superior Western manhood, and once again it was found wanting". But the humiliation subsided when Geesink showed the proper respect by bowing the traditional bow. "Geesink... would be treated as a hero in Japan forever after... One quality has stood out to serve Japan better than any other: the grace to

Cyanide in Tokyo Bay

Kyodo reports that the Japan Coast Guard sent to prosecutors on Monday a case in which JFE Steel Corp, a unit of JFE Holdings Inc, and four employees of the company allegedly released highly polluted wastewater from a steel mill into Tokyo Bay, the coast guard said. Japan's second-largest steel manufacturer is suspected of discharging wastewater containing highly toxic cyanide compounds or hydrogen ion exceeding regulatory standards at Chiba port, in the eastern part of Tokyo Bay, from a mill operated by its East Japan Works in Chiba. This has been big in the news, and JFE , which was established from the merger of NKK and Kawasaki Steel in April 2003, needs to be reminded of what they said as a corportate message for 2005: Last year we set a goal of “zero accidents” in each work place. Unfortunately, we were unable to eradicate serious accidents in spite of active safety programs. We will continue to emphasize the improvements, investments and education that are necessary to in

Flavour of tea...

Great song here from the soundtrack of a movie called Cha no aji (Flavour of tea). Enjoy!

75% of Japan not prepared for earthquakes

Today, NHK reports that 3/4 of the prefectures in Japan have made no budget allocations for assisting rural communities, in case of a major earthquake. The NHK survey is quite alarming. There are no plans to help isolated towns in case of power outages, no mobile phones, and no storage of food or medical supplies... This weekend marks one year since the huge Niigata earthquake. Read more here . And here is Niigata prefecture's own page with information. For photos, please refer to this page . Exactly one year ago, I did my first NHK live radio broadcast... And what a day to begin. The entire Shibuya NHK building was shaking, and it was clear that this was a big one.

One with the bow

One of the finest books about Japan written by a foreigner is Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In his book Mr. Herrigel describes his experiences with kyudo in the 1930's. It is a beautifully written account that has been translated into many languages, giving people worldwide their first glimpse of this elegant art. Now, NHK has produced a TV program called One with the bo w that has won several prestegious awards this year in the U.S. Englishman Liam O'Brien takes a Japanese bow back to Kumamoto Prefecture in southwest Japan to ask the man who made it, master bowyer Shigemasa Matsunaga, if the bow is in peak condition. Preparing to go for the eighth-rank trials that would make him a kyudo master, O'Brien also seeks to confirm his own fitness for the coming ordeal from this dedicated craftsman who has made 20,000 bows, but not one of which has fully satisfied him. In O'Brien, though, he sees an archer worthy of the very best bow he can make. Read mor

Asian films in Tokyo

As the Tokyo International Film Festival opens tomorrow, there will be a lot of Asian films. This is the first time since the original TIFF in 1985 that Asian films will open and close the event, according to the Daily Yomiuri that also notes that both the opener and the closer involve Japan's immediate neighbors in Asia. As the host country, Japan brings films in the competition section, special screenings and the Japanese Eyes section. One special screening piece, Until the Lights Come Back, is this year's major Christmas story set in Tokyo, telling the tale of what happens when a blackout hits the capital on Christmas Day... Read more here (truly awful website, BTW). Asian Films is a good website if you want to read more about films from this part of the world. This website is specifically about Korean Films and here you can read about recent award-winning Japanese Films . Some of the films shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival Oct. 22-30, 2005: TAIWAN The W

Frankfurt bookfair

The Frankfurt bookfair is an annual fair where about 12,000 publishers from all over the world are attending. This year, South Korea is displaying over 6,000 books on Korea published in Korea and abroad. Also displayed is the "Jikji Simche Yojeol" - the world's oldest text printed with metal type, with its printing in 1377 predating by 38 years Gutenberg's 42-line Bible. A collection of Buddhist treatises and teachings, the book is included in UNESCO's "Memory of the World" register. The article describes how the original book is in the possession of France at the National Library of France in Paris, having been shipped out of Korea by a French national in the last years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Hmm? Why doesn't Korea try to get it back? Read more here I have to admit that I still haven't read any Korean novels, and frankly, I don't even know the name of a single Korean writer. Any good advice? Korean literature previous .

Listening to classical music

I'm listening to classical music these days, having found several sites on the Internet that make music available. Free music on the net? Isn't that a threat to the recording industry? I would argue NOT! When I get a chance to listen to a lot of music, I also go to the record shops more, as I want that special CD in my collection. The copyright issue should not be a problem here. If it exposes more people to great music, the artists can only win. Make sure to watch NHK on Sunday evenings at 21:00, always great concerts to end the week. Here is a favourite link to SR Klassiskt, Classical music from Swedish Radio. Around the clock and worldwide. A selection of 500 years of outstanding hits as well as the lesser known. Swedish radio P2