Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Synchronized precision walking as a sport

May 4, 2019

The videos show students at the Nippon Sport Science University demonstrating “shuudan koudou,” which translates as “collective action.”

If you don’t have time to watch the entire videos, go to 1.35 minutes in the top video to see two columns of students quick-march backwards through each other.

Despite everything, it’s an amazing world we live in.

Hat tip to kottke.org.

Winter in Japan

January 20, 2018

There’s a line between humanoid and human

January 18, 2016
Hiroshi Ishaguro with Erica, his latest humanoid robot

Hiroshi Ishaguro with Erica, his latest humanoid robot

The following is from The Guardian:

Erica enjoys the theatre and animated films, would like to visit south-east Asia, and believes her ideal partner is a man with whom she can chat easily.

She is less forthcoming, however, when asked her age. “That’s a slightly rude question … I’d rather not say,” comes the answer.

As her embarrassed questioner shifts sideways and struggles to put the conversation on a friendlier footing, Erica turns her head, her eyes following his every move. It is all rather disconcerting, but if Japan’s new generation of intelligent robots are ever going to rival humans as conversation partners, perhaps that is as it should be.

Erica, who, it turns out, is 23, is the most advanced humanoid to have come out of a collaborative effort between Osaka and Kyoto universities, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).

At its heart is the group’s leader, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, perhaps best known for creating Geminoid HI-1, an android in his likeness, right down to his trademark black leather jacket and a Beatles mop-top made with his own hair.  [snip]

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The American failure at nation-building.

November 19, 2015

If you attempt the impossible, you will fail.
        ==One of the Ten Truths of Management

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.
        ==One of Rumsfeld’s Rules

mason.strategiclessons.PUB1269Why was the United States so successful in building up Germany, Japan and South Korea as independent nations after World War Two, and such a failure in building up South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Chris Mason, in his book Strategic Lessons, wrote that the reason is that while it is possible to help an existing nation build up a stable government, it is not possible for outsiders to create a national consciousness among a people who lack it.

That is the reason for the failures in South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—not any lack of valor or professionalism among American troops, but the fact that they were given a mission equivalent to trying to make water flow uphill.

He said the U.S. military is well-suited for carrying out two kinds of missions:

  1. Defending allies from invasion by use of “intense lethality” against the aggressor.
  2. Intervening in a foreign country to protect American lives or interests by striking hard at a military target, and then leaving—preferably within 90 days.

If the American government is considering intervening in a country for an extended length of time, it should summon the best academic experts to assess whether the people of that country have a sense of nationhood.  If not, the only unity those people will have is in resisting the invader.

Actually there were people inside the government who understood what would happen in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and said so, but they were ignored, Mason said.   Instead decisions were made by people who knew nothing about those countries, but knew what to do and say in order to advance their careers.

Those are harsh words.  The fact that the Army War College has published his book shows that there are some people in the military who value intelligent dissent.

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Click on The Strategic Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan: Why the Afghan National Security Forces Will Not Hold and the Implications for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for the text of Chris Mason’s book in PDF form.  I thank Craig Hanyan for suggesting it.

Click on America’s Future in Afghanistan for interviews by ARRA News Service giving the opposing viewpoints of Chris Mason and General John R. Allen, USMC-Ret.  [added 11/20/2015]

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The passing scene: Links & comments 10/24/2015

October 24, 2015

Anxious Hours in Pivotland: Where’s My Sailthrough? by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Neither South Korea nor Australia support the U.S.-Japanese opposition to Chinese efforts to claim islands in the South China Sea.  The Chinese Navy meanwhile made a point about freedom of the seas by sailing through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Trey Gowdy Just Elected Hillary Clinton President by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Or at least greatly strengthened her bid for the Democratic nomination.  The Benghazi hearings made Republicans look like fools and showed Clinton as someone who is a match for them.

Are Canadian progressives showing Americans the way? by Miles Corak for Economics for public policy (via Economist’s View)

America’s Civilian Killings Are No Accident by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

The bombing of the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, had many precedents.

What Is life? by Matthew Francis for Mosaic.  (via Barry Ritholtz)

If humans encountered extraterrestrial life, would we know it when we saw it?

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Glimpses of Asia – October 15, 2015

October 15, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack.

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25 images of Thailand’s most beautiful temples by Daniel Nahabedian for the Matador network.

How Japan Has Perfected Hospitality Culture by Oliver Strand for the Wall Street Journal.   The Japanese are known for extreme hospitality.

‘Omotenashi’ comes up short on humility by Philip Brasor for Japan Times.   But is the hospitality’s purpose to make guests feel welcome or to manifest Japanese superiority?

Movie ‘Abat’ banned by Thai Culture Ministry by Terry Frederickson for the Bangkok Post.

Producer, monk question ban on Arbat by the Bangkok Post.  A controversial Thai movie, whose title is spelled two different ways in English, depicts a Buddhist monk who betrays his vows.

Shunga exhibition defies ‘pornography’ taboos to expose Japan to its erotic past by David Mcneil for The Independent.

Sisters separated 40 years ago in Korea reunited working in same US hospital from The Guardian.

Outrage in Vietnam over curtailing abortions by DPA for the Bangkok Post.

Thai bird singing contest draws thousands by World Bulletin News Desk.

Thailand voices disappointment over EU’s human rights criticism by AsiaOne in Singapore.

The passing scene – October 10, 2015

October 10, 2015

Excerpts from the works of Nobel winner Svetlana Alexievich by the Associated Press.

Boys In Zinc by Svetlana Alexievich for Granta.   The title refers to the zinc-lined coffins in which bodies of Soviet troops were shipped home from Afghanistan.

Nobel laureate Alexievich on Putin and Soviet trauma for the France24 TV network.  (Hat tip to O)

Svetlana Alexievich captured the psyche – and trauma – of a Soviet people and nation by Elena Gapova for The Conversation.

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich

I never heard of Svetlana Alexievich until she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  She is a non-fiction writer from Belarus, which before 1991 was part of the USSR and Russian Empire.

Her theme is said to be the spiritual vacuum left by the fall of Communism.  She seems like a writer worth getting to know about.

The average Russian has a little Red Man inside who longs for the return of a strong, authoritarian ruler, she says; that is the secret of Vladimir Putin’s power and the reason for his aggressive policies.

Game On!  For Abe in Asia by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Peter Lee thinks the Trans Pacific Partnership is part of a U.S. strategy to checkmate China by building up Japanese power and influence in the Pacific region.  Specifically, he thinks Japanese companies could use the TPP to block Chinese infrastructure projects in Vietnam and Malaysia on the grounds that Chinese companies enjoy unfair government subsidies.

Leaked (final?) TPP intellectual property chapter spells doom for free speech online by Corey Doctorow for Boing Boing.

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Glimpses of Asia – October 3, 2015

October 3, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty

Ghost Chili

Ghost Chili

World’s Hottest Chili (the Ghost Chili) is now being weaponized by the Indian Military
http://www.messynessychic.com/2012/10/08/worlds-hottest-chili-the-ghost-chili-is-now-being-weaponized-by-the-indian-military/

US elevates Thailand to best child labor category
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/US-elevates-Thailand-to-best-child-labor-category-30269971.html

Movie Vs. Reality: What It Actually Feels Like To Climb Mount Everest
http://uproxx.com/life/2015/09/everest-reality-vs-fiction/

The Most Frightening Food Found on Airplanes
http://mentalfloss.com/article/69240/most-frightening-food-found-airplanes

[Thai] Government warns netizen protesters
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/security/714964/government-warns-netizen-protesters

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Glimpses of Asia – October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

Go Delhi Go | Hyperlapse (2 min)

Colonial Photography in British India
http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/12586

Where Do Languages Go to Die? – The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/aramaic-middle-east-language/404434/

Mount Everest to be declared off-limits to inexperienced climbers, says Nepal
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/28/mount-everest-to-be-declared-off-limits-to-inexperienced-climbers

Map: Where the East and the West meet
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/28/map-where-the-east-and-the-west-meet/

Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance
http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2015/09/20/stephen_voss_photographs_bonsai_trees_at_the_national_bonsai_penjing_museum.html

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More glimpses of Asia – September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

Links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty

Japan’s Yakuza: Inside the syndicate

Malaysia arrests eight in connection with Bangkok shrine bombing
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/23/malaysia-arrests-eight-bangkok-shrine-bombing

Sumatran rhinos likely to become extinct, conservationists warn
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/22/sumatran-rhinos-likely-to-become-extinct-warn-environment-experts

Secret Missionaries and Smuggled Bibles: China’s Religious Boom
http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/secret-missionaries-and-smuggled-bibles-chinas-religious-boom

25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World  [24 in Asia -M]
http://www.boredpanda.com/dangerous-journey-to-school/

We’re All Mispronouncing Mount Everest’s Name  [Interesting trivia! Of course those of us who have lived/visited Nepal or Tibet, call it Sagarmatha or Chomolungma -M]
http://mentalfloss.com/article/68822/were-all-mispronouncing-mount-everests-name

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Glimpses of Asia – September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

These are links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

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The Palaces of Memory by Stuart Freedman, review of a coffee table book of photographs of worker-owned coffee houses in India, by Peter Nitsch for The Cutting Edge of Creativity.

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Glimpses of Asia – September 19, 2015

September 19, 2015

I received the following links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

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The Kabul college turning street children into musicians, a photo story in The Guardian.

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This Vietnamese University Is Turning Its Campus Into a Forest by Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss.

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This Simple Toilet Can Improve Health and Safety by Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss.

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How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran by a Tehran Bureau correspondent for The Guardian.

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How to repair old books

April 27, 2015

Hat tip to Jack C.

Hiroshima’s Shadow 3: the revisionist argument

March 27, 2015

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Revisionist historians deny that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in order to save American lives.

They say the Japanese high command was ready to surrender before the bombs were dropped and that, in any case, an invasion of Japan would not have caused the 1 million Allied casualties or 500,000 deaths that President Truman later claimed were averted.

The real reason for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they say, is that American leaders thought the existence of the bomb and the U.S. willingness to use it would strengthen the American position in relation to the Soviet Union.

Hiroshima's Shadow 0_The essay collection, Hiroshima’s Shadow, which I am now reading, provides the documentary evidence for these arguments.  The contributors include historians who know much more about this subject than I do, but historians disagree.

I think the revisionist arguments not as false, but as inconclusive.   Yet I draw the same moral for our own time as they do about the need for disarmament and the risks of atomic diplomacy.

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Were the Japanese really willing to surrender before Hiroshima was bombed?

It is a fact that Japan’s military and civilian leaders both regarded the Pacific War as lost, and they hoped to negotiate a peace on the best terms that they could.  The minimum terms, especially for the military, were that the Japanese retain control of the home islands and that Emperor of Japan continue to rule.

The Allies included “unconditional surrender” of the Japanese armed forces and an Allied occupation of Japan.   The Japanese were promised that the Allies did not intend to annihilate them and that they would eventually have a government of their own choosing.  This implies that they could have had an Emperor if they wanted one, but nothing specific was said.

The question in my mind is just what was meant by the Emperor continuing to  rule.   Did it mean that the Emperor would remain in place as a powerless constitutional monarch, as eventually happened?

Or did it mean that the Emperor would rule, not by popular mandate, but by divine right as a descendent of the sun goddess and an object of worship in the state Shinto religion, with the military exercising power in his name?  This would have meant a perpetuation of the totalitarian that had led to war in the first place.

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The passing scene: March 20, 2015

March 20, 2015

When a Summer Job Could Pay the Tuition by Timothy Taylor as the Conversible Economist.

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When I attended college in the 1950s, any young American could earn enough working at a full-time summer job, and a part-time job during the school year, to pay tuition at a state university.  The USA is generating just as much wealth per person as it was then, so there is no inherent reason why that shouldn’t still be possible.

Wrong-Way Obama? by William Greider for The Nation (via Truthout)

The world economic situation is very much like it was on the eve of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  World leaders need to work together to create jobs, and to write down debt that is a burden on economic growth and never going to be paid anyway.  The Transpacific Partnership Agreement is the exact opposite of the kind of international agreement that is needed.

Who Owns the Post Office? by Mark Jamison for Save the Post Office (via Angry Bear).

The Founders of the United States didn’t think of the Postal Service as a business.  They thought of it as a means of binding the nation together.   Benjamin Franklin, once a postmaster, would have been shocked by closing of post offices in small towns because they didn’t generate enough traffic.

How Parents in One Low-Income Town Are Raising Hell to Save Their Schools by Alan Richard on Alternet.

School teachers will tell you that the key to better schools is parents getting involved.   Parents in a small town in Mississippi have figured out how to make that work.

Peasant Sovereignty? by Evanggelos Valliantos for Independent Science News.

A recent study of nine European countries is the latest study to confirm that peasants and small farmers are more productive than large mechanized farms based on industrial agriculture.  If decision-makers are concerned about feeding the world, they should be thinking about how to get land in the hands of hard-working peasants who have little.

Turning Japanese: coping with stagnation by Roland Kelts for The Long+Short.

Japan is considered a failure by some because its economy isn’t growing.  But the Japanese economy and culture work well for the Japanese.  We Americans could learn something from them.

The warmongering record of Hillary Clinton

March 4, 2015

The frustrating thing about the right-wing Republican critics of Hillary Clinton is they criticize her for all the wrong things.   I think I’m as strongly opposed to Clinton as they are, and they put me in the position of defending her.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In the U.S. intervention in Libya, she is criticized for failing to arrange protection for the U.S. ambassador from the terrorist attack on Benghazi, a legitimate issue, and for mis-characterizing the attack as a spontaneous reaction instead of a planned terrorist attack, an insignificant issue.

But neither of these things matter as much as the total disaster she brought down on the people of Libya.

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me a link to an article in Counterpunch that sums up what’s wrong with Clinton very well.

First Libya:

The results of “Operation Unified Protector” … … include the persecution of black Africans and Tuaregs, the collapse of any semblance of central government, the division of the country between hundreds of warring militias, the destabilization of neighboring Mali producing French imperialist intervention, the emergence of Benghazi as an al-Qaeda stronghold, and the proliferation of looted arms among rebel groups.

Now the whole Clinton record:

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A footnote on Hiroshma

January 29, 2015

Back in the 1960s, I had a friend named Willis who was married to a sweet young Japanese woman named Teri.

He had not fought in the war, but served in the Army during the Occupation of Japan.  Teri worked in the same office that he did.  He spent a year persuading her to go out with him on a date.  Six months after that they were engaged to be married.

cherry_blossom_The Army forbid troops to marry “indigenous personnel” and he had quite a time finding a job in Japan so that he could be discharged there rather than being sent back to the United States.

Teri as a schoolgirl had been given a dagger with which to kill herself rather than be violated by American soldiers.  Then she met big, gentle Willis, who was the complete opposite of the bestial, animal-like American depicted in Japanese propaganda.

When Willis got to know Teri’s family, he pressed his father-in-law to tell him what he really thought of the bombing of Hiroshima.  The father-in-law was reluctant to answer, he said there was no point in talking about the topic, but Willis pressed him—he was not one to take “no” for an answer—and the father-in-law finally did answer.

It’s been 50 years since Willis told me the story, and of course it was second-hand to begin with, but I think I remember the gist of ir accurately.  It was approximately like this.

We Japanese understand military necessity.  If we had possessed atomic bombs, we most certainly would have used them on San Francisco and Los Angeles.

What we don’t understand is your moralizing over the fact.  You dropped the bomb and killed a lot of people, but you act as if you are not the kind of people who would do such a thing, even though you did.

You Americans like to think that you are different from other people, but you aren’t.  And if you don’t understand that, we do.

I thought of Willis’s story every time I heard President Bush or President Obama say, “This is not who we are.”

Was the Hiroshima bomb necessary?

January 29, 2015

UntoldHistoryStoneKuznick00379519I’ve been reading Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States, a companion to their TV series of the same name.  It is a compendium of the crimes and follies of the U.S. government in the 20th century.

One chapter is devoted to an indictment of the USA for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Stone and Kuznick contend that:

  • The dropping of the bomb was partly due to President Truman’s need to affirm his masculinity.
  • The dropping of the bombs was partly due to American racism against the Japanese.
  • The dropping of the bombs was intended mainly as a deterrent against the Soviet Union.
  • Japan’s surrender could have been negotiated without the bomb.
  • The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, not the atomic bombs, were the main reason why the Japanese eventually did surrender.

For me, it’s not so simple.

Hiroshima and Nakasaki were the culmination in the greatest mass slaughter of human beings in history.  An estimated 50 million to 60 million people, more than half of them civilians, were killed in the war, not counting those who died of war-related famine and disease.

World War Two was a war without mercy.  All sides lost their moral inhibitions.  I was a small boy during World War Two and I remember the wartime atmosphere.  Everyone wanted to win the war as quickly as possible and by any means necessary.

There was no bright line that separated the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings from what had gone before, including the systematic bombing of the German and Japanese cities.  I couldn’t have imagined the United States possessing such a powerful weapon and not using it.

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How America shaped the early 20th century

January 12, 2015

Adam Tooze in THE DELUGE: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931, which I just got finished reading, traced the impact of the emergence of the United States as the world’s dominant superpower and arbiter of world affairs.

He described in great detail the struggles in Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Japan for security and economic stability, and how they all hinged on the action and inaction of the USA.

Leaders of the USA today call our country the “indispensable nation”, and assert the right and the power to be the arbiter of the world.  Tooze’s book shows how this self-appointed role began.

24926_large_The_DelugeThe early 20th century USA was a new kind of world power, Tooze wrote.  It had a greater area and greater population than any European country except Russia.  It was uniquely invulnerable to invasion.  It was the world’s leading manufacturing nation, agricultural producer and oil exporter and, as a result of the war, the world’s leading creditor nation.  No other country could even come close to matching American power.

Tooze began his history in 1916 because that was when Britain, France and their allies came to realize how much they depended on the United States, not just for supplies, but even more for financing of the war.

Woodrow Wilson’s policy was to use this leverage to dictate a “peace without victory,” a compromise peace based on liberal democracy, international law and—most importantly—a worldwide open door for U.S. commerce.

The United States was not interested in new territorial acquisitions because it didn’t need them.  All it wanted was access to other nations’ territories by American business.

Wilson’s neutrality became politically unsustainable because of German attacks on U.S. shipping, and the Zimmerman telegram to Mexico urging reconquest of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, but he still tried to maintain U.S. position as an arbiter above the fray.

His Fourteen Points encouraged liberal democrats around the world.  According to Tooze, with better decisions and better luck, there might have been a compromise peace between the pro-democratic Provisional Government of Russia, which came to power in March 1917, and a German government forced to yield to pressure from liberals and socialists in the Reichstag.

But the USA and the other allies pressured Russia’s Provisional Government to go on fighting, and the German army successfully counterattacked.  The Russians ceased to hope for peace and the Germans ceased to see a need for peace.   Wilsonian liberal movements in China and Japan also received no support, partly because of Wilson’s racism.

Tooze pointed out that the Fourteen Points were all highly consistent with American national interests.   The first three points were (1) no secret treaties, (2) freedom of the seas and (3) removal of barriers to equality of trade, all policies that advanced U.S. economic interests.

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Glimpses of Asia: January 8, 2015

January 8, 2015

I got the following links from my expatriate friend Jack, who got them from his friend Marty.

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In Pictures: China’s Frozen City by Richard Angwin for Aljazeera.

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Harbin international ice and snow festival – in pictures in The Guardian.

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DKJT87 Verbotsschild, Singapur

The price of life in Singapore, city of rules: ‘It’s a Faustian deal’ by Oliver Millman for The Guardian.

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Scenes from a visit to Japan

May 13, 2014

Hat tip to Jack Clontz

A device that converts plastic back into oil

April 25, 2014

This video has been making the rounds for four years or more, but I just learned about it when my friend Bill Elwell called it to my attention.  It seemed to me to be too good to be true, but evidently the plastic-to-oil converter, made by the Blest Co. in Japan, is for real.

Here are some links to articles giving details.

Man Invents Machine to Convert Waste Plastic Into Oil and Fuel on hoaxorfact.com

Plastic to Oil $$ by Alternatives Journal, “Canada’s environmental voice”

Plastic to Oil Fantastic on Our World.

Converting plastic back into oil by Snopes.com

 

World fears Fukushima-contaminated food

December 4, 2013
fukushimafoodimportban

Double click to enlarge.

The world’s governments are worried about contamination of fish and farm produce from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.   The graphic above, taken from the Korea JoonAng Daily, shows the world’s reaction.  The graphic below shows the specific bans on food imports by South Korea.

koreafoodimportsban

Click to enlarge.

Is the danger exaggerated?  Maybe it is.  There’s no way to be sure except to let people eat contaminated fish and farm produce and see what happens.  I wouldn’t want to try the experiment.

Is this an argument for getting rid of nuclear power?  Maybe it is.  South Korea gets more than a third of its electricity from nuclear generating plants.  Are they in a position to give that up?

If (1) we don’t want to burn oil from deep water drilling or tar sands processing, natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or coal produced by mountaintop removal, (2) we’re worried about global warming from burning fossil fuels and (3) we’re not ready to give up the blessings of industrial civilization, we’d better be sure we have something in reserve.

At the very least, the world’s people need to make sure that nuclear power plants are operated by managers who don’t have financial incentives to cut corners on safety.  We need to be sure they are located on geologically stable sites, run by top-notch experts according to stringent standards and decommissioned on their due dates.

Click on Korea and world fear Fukushima’s radiation for the full article in the Korea JoonAng Daily.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

The passing scene: Headlines & links 11/22/13

November 22, 2013

China Tests First Combat Stealth Drone by Agence France Presse.

PROC Says No Longer in China’s Interest to Increase Reserves by Bloomberg News.

The Chinese government is developing its military technology and increasing military spending.  At the same time the Peoples Bank of China announced it will no longer increase its dollar reserves, which was done to hold down the exchange rate for the Chinese yuan.  This means U.S. imports from China will cost more in dollars.  This may mean that China intends to reduce its holdings in U.S. Treasury Bonds, since their value would be less in terms of Chinese money.  China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt.

Turkey pushes crossroads politics by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to make Turkey the crossroads between Europe and Asia for oil and gas pipelines.  This means keeping in the good graces of the governments of Iran and Iraq.

Ukraine Won’t Sign EU Agreement by Michael Kelley for Business Insider.

By rejecting an invitation to join the European Union and instead joining a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the government of Ukraine has decided to align itself with Russia rather than the West.

Japan’s Losing Battle Against ‘Goldman Sachs With Guns’ by Willliam Pesek for Bloomberg News.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

The Yakuza, Japan’s crime syndicate, operates opening and controls a large and growing part of the Japanese economy.

UN surveillance resolution goes ahead despite attempts to dilute language by Ewen MacAskill and James Ball for The Guardian.

The United Nations General Assembly is ready to go ahead with a strong resolution condemning unlawful and arbitrary surveillance and asserting a basic right of privacy, despite efforts by the U.S., British and Australian delegations to water it down.  Those three nations, plus Canada and New Zealand, are part of the “five eyes” to share surveillance data.

Hamid Karzai urges Afghans to let US forces stay another decade by Emma Graham-Harrison for The Guardian.

United States gives Afghanistan year-end deadline for crucial security deal by Hamid Shalizi and Jessica Donati for Reuters.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

As the old proverb goes, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

Glimpses of Asia: the new, the old, the strange

November 5, 2013

The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
==Robert Louis Stevenson

Refrigerator delivery to base camp on Everest

Refrigerator for Everest base camp

This collection of links, most of which I got from an American e-mail pen pal who lives in Asia, is a reminder that, despite all the awful things that happen, I live in a world that is so damn interesting.  

Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’

Gender bending in Japan

Countries within Nations.  The combined populations of China and India exceed the populations of North and South America plus western Europe.  Chinese provinces and Indian states are comparable to well-known sovereign nations, and are becoming increasingly independent.  This article includes interactive maps, on which you can click on an individual province or state and see which country it equals in population.

Chinese man finally meets his Internet crush—and she’s his daughter-in-law.

A festival of eagles in Mongolia

Kim Jong Un’s Luxurious ‘Seven-Star’ Lifestyle Of Yachts, Booze And Food

The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce.  I love Vietnamese hot sauce.

Sriracha chili sauce company under fire for spicing up air around factory. The City of Irwindale filed lawsuit after residents surrounding the California factory complained of burning eyes and headaches.

The Chile Pepper Institute.   Chile peppers originated in the New World, but they’ve become so much a part of the cuisine of many Asian countries that you wouldn’t think so.

The Weirdest and Most Revolting Foods That You Could Actually Eat.  Most of these are from Asia.

Malaysia court rules non-Muslims cannot use ‘Allah

Best places to retire abroad. These include Chiang Mai in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Singapore Laws. Travelers beware.

Trick or Treat – A look at Indonesia’s horrifying masked monkey trade.

Anoman fight with the dragon Java.   A painter’s beautiful works based on traditional Javanese stories.

De-stressss with a snake massage.

Bizarre, hilarious, disgusting Thai bracelets from a bracelet vendor at the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thailand racism row reignited by Unilever ad for skin-whitening cream.

Kitchen of the Golden Temple.  This sacred shrine in India feeds up to 100,000 people a day regardless of race, religion and class.

Burka Avenger Episode 01 (w/ English Subtitles).  The Burka Avenger is a children’s cartoon show produced in Pakistan.

Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare

Saudi comedian mocks ban on women driving with viral video

I don’t draw any bottom-line conclusion from all this, except an awareness of how limited my knowledge is, and a reminder to beware of sweeping generalizations about others nations and civilizations.