Friday, April 29, 2011

Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War”

Still Present Pasts:
Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War”

A/P/A Institute at NYU
41-51 East 11th Street
7th Floor Gallery
New York, NY 10003

A multi-media exhibit that combines installation and performance art, documentary film, archival photographs, and oral histories to explore memories and legacies of the Korean War. Embodying life stories of ordinary Korean Americans who survived the war, the exhibit is a public space of remembering that breaks the silence about a tragic episode in U.S. and Korean history. Featured artists include Sukjong Hong, Deann Borshay Liem, Yul-san Liem, Yong Soon Min, Injoo Whang, Ji-Young Yooo.

NYU exhibition curated by Yul-san Liem. Project Director: Ramsay Liem.

Community cosponsor: Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.

The Korean War took the lives of 3 million Korean civilians and 1.2 million combatants, ushered in the Cold War era, and remains stalemated in an armistice agreement nearly 6 decades since its signing - yet most Americans remember it only as the “forgotten war.”

Listen to the Asia-Pacific Forum radio program on the exhibition, featuring curator and artist Yul-san Liem here.

Yul-san Liem is a social justice activist and artist whose work addresses issues of war, trauma and resistance. She is a long-time member and leader of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development (NDD), a Queens-based organization dedicated to achieving peace in Korea and empowering the Korean American community.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hirose Takashi: More earthquakes ahead bodes ill for Rokkasho & Hamaoko nuclear plants - both sit on fault lines

April 25, 2011

On the Danger of a Killer Earthquake in the Japanese Archipelago: The Nuclear Disaster That Could Destroy Japan ... and the World
Translated by Doug Lummis

The nuclear power plants in Japan are ageing rapidly; like cyborgs, they are barely kept in operation by a continuous replacement of parts.  And now that Japan has entered a period of earthquake activity and a major accident could happen at any time, the people live in constant state of anxiety...

Seismologists and geologists agree that, after some fifty years of seismic inactivity, with the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (Southern Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake), the country has entered a period of seismic activity.  In 2004, the Chuetsu Earthquake hit Niigata Prefecture, doing damage to the village of Yamakoshi.  Three years later, in 2007, the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake severely damaged the nuclear reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.  In 2008, there was an earthquake in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, causing a whole mountain to disappear completely.  Then in 2009 the Hamaoka nuclear plant was put in a state of emergency by the Suruga Bay Earthquake.  And now, in 2011, we have the 3/11 earthquake offshore from the northeast coast.  But the period of seismic activity is expected to continue for decades. From the perspective of seismology, a space of 10 or 15 years is but a moment in time.

Because the Pacific Plate, the largest of the plates that envelop the earth, is in motion, I had predicted that there would be major earthquakes all over the world.

And as I had feared, after the Suruga Bay Earthquake of August 2009 came as a triple shock, it was followed in September and October by earthquakes off Samoa, Sumatra, and Vanuatu, of magnitudes between 7.6 and 8.2. That means three to eleven times the force of the Southern Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake.

All of these quakes occurred around the Pacific Plate as the center, and each was located at the boundary of either that plate or a plate under its influence.  Then in the following year, 2010, in January there came the Haiti Earthquake, at the boundary of the Caribbean Plate, pushed by the Pacific and Coco Plates, then in February the huge 8.8 magnitude earthquake offshore from Chile.  I was praying that this world scale series of earthquakes would come to an end, but the movement of the Pacific Plate shows no sign of stopping, and led in 2011 to the 3/11 Earthquake in northeastern Japan and the subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima

There are large seismic faults, capable of producing earthquakes at the 7 or 8 magnitude level, near each of Japan’s nuclear plants, including the reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. It is hard to believe that there is any nuclear plant that would not be damaged by a magnitude 8 earthquake...

The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant is where expended nuclear fuel from all of Japan’s nuclear power plants is collected, and then reprocessed so as to separate out the plutonium, the uranium, and the remaining highly radioactive liquid waste.  In short, it is the most dangerous factory in the world....

On April 7, just one month after the 3/11 earthquake in northeastern Japan, there was a large aftershock.  At the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant the electricity was shut off.  The pool containing nuclear fuel and the radioactive liquid waste were (barely) cooled down by the emergency generators, meaning that Japan was brought to the brink of destruction.  But the Japanese media, as usual, paid this almost no notice.

The Hamaoka Nuclear Plant is located at Shizuoka City, on Suruga Bay.  Despite predictions of a magnitude 8 earthquake on Suruga Bay, it has continued in operation.  If you look at the illustration showing the configuration of the plates beneath the Pacific Ocean, you will see that there is a point at which the Philippine Sea Plate, the huge Pacific Plate, the North American Plate, and the Eurasian Plate all meet; directly over that point is the Japanese Archipelago.  And the very center of the area where these four plates press together is Shizuoka...

Large scale earthquakes in the eastern and southern seas have occurred regularly at intervals of between 100 and 250 years.  Today in 2011, 157 years have passed since the Great Ansei Earthquake of 1854, so we are in a period when the next big one could come at any time.  And the predicted center of this expected major earthquake is – though this is hard to believe – exactly under the location of the Hamaoka Nuclear Plant.  And sonar readings at the site indicate that from thirty years back the Eurasian plate has been bending, which means that it is in a condition where it can be expected eventually to spring back.

Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex.  Probably his best known book is Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they're safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires?

Douglas Lummis is a political scientist living in Okinawa and the author of Radical Democracy. Lummis can be reached at
Read Dr. Hirose's entire article here at Counterpunch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

87 Japanese NGOs call for nuclear-free society on 25th anniversary of Chernobyl accident

From Japan Today:
TOKYO — A group of 87 nongovernmental organizations in Japan reiterated calls to achieve "a nuclear-free society" on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, at a time when a nuclear crisis is continuing in Japan at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

"We will launch a large national action" seeking the permanent closure of the Fukushima Daiichi and neighboring Daini plants, cancellations of the nuclear fuel recycle program and new reactor construction plans as well as shutdowns of aging reactors, the NGOs said in their joint statement.

"As a first step we are issuing this joint statement today, 25 years after the Chernobyl accident," it noted. "And we will propose a process for achieving a steady phase out of nuclear energy" so the earth will not be further subjected to radioactive contamination and radiation exposure.

On the state of the Fukushima plant, the statement said the reactors there "have not achieved cold shut down. The situation continues to be unpredictable."

The No. 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986, becoming the world’s worst nuclear accident.
A list of the signatory NGOs is included following the Japanese version of this statement at the website of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center.

For a gripping photojournalist account of post-disaster Chernobyl, see the Kid of Speed website, which documents the 2004 motorcycle journey of a Ukranian woman who simply calls herself Elena as she travels through the abandoned town and records what she sees and feels.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"We are not powerless": Shizuoka Residents Voice Fears, Hopes at “Nanohana Parade Hamaoka”

People of all ages gathered in Shizuoka City this past Sunday, April 24th in a lively gathering to call for an immediate halt to the Hamaoka nuclear plant, as well as to begin forging alliances for creating new alternative energies. Sitting atop the juncture of two tectonic plates within the prefecture on a fault line that is now overdue for a major earthquake, residents fear that if the plant is not stopped now, another Fukushima-like tragedy could occur.

Around 800 people attended the event, making it the largest ever such gathering for Shizuoka prefecture. In addition to a parade calling for the plant to be shut down, attendees also assembled in Aoba Park to the backdrop of lively music to share information and listen to speakers calling for an end to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power. Many also displayed creative signs and artwork voicing their fears for another accident—as well as their hopes for a future of clean energy.

The name of the parade comes from the nanohana (field mustard) plant, which many say can help mitigate the negative effects of radiation.

Bouquet of field greens including nanohana

The powerfully-written press release for the event explains the name and the ethos for the event as follows:
Following the earthquake in Northern Japan, a group of young people called Fukinotou (butterbur sprout) in Shizuoka organized ‘Nanohana Parade Hamaoka (Field mustard flower Parade Hamaoka).

The situation at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants remains critical, and there has been enormous suffering and anxiety caused as a result of the accident on many levels. This has made us realize that the Hamaoka nuclear power plants are still operating in our Shizuoka prefecture where we live.

Concerned about this, some of us rang Chubu Electric Power Company and checked their website. We found out that the electricity generated from the Hamaoka plant is only 14% of the total supply for the area, which means it could be possible to stop the Hamaoka plant. (Hamaoka plant was built on fault line and in the Tokai area where M8 earthquake has been expected to happen with a probability of 87% within next 30 years.)

We are raising our voices to ask: ‘Why is the Hamaoka plant still operating?’ We need to say our message loudly; otherwise it will not be heard and no change will come. We have organized this parade to show our deep concern at the continued operation of the Hamaoka plant. As we raise our voices, we are also questioning ourselves as to why are we not cutting down on our use of electricity. ‘Why are we not installing solar panels on our roofs', for example? We have realized that it is important to reflect on our daily lives to start making changes and do what we can to help.

We are hoping to set up a space for all residents to discuss new energy sources and about lifestyles which are green and sustainable as individuals, and also to look at organizing a citizen’s bank in order to design new natural energy plans from a grass-roots level.

After the earthquake in Northern Japan on 11 March, many of us were motivated to act. We believe that it is important to raise our voices outside, look into our own actions inside and discuss both approaches together. We feel we need to express this externally, and put this out to society as well as personally reflecting on our own lives.

Why “Nanohana”(field mustard flower)?

The field mustard flower is believed to have the highest capacity to absorb Cecium 137 and Strontium 90 in soil. Field mustard needs calium and calcium to grow, and they are similar in nature to cecium and strontium. Thus, they can absorb radioactivity in soil. We have not experimented with this ourselves to prove it scientifically. However, we decided to use “Nanohana” as a symbol of hope and solutions in thinking about the accidents at the Fukushima plant, and our Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka prefecture.

We have chosen to hold a parade so that we can encourage both children and adults to take part. We hope that every small step which all of us will make on this parade can change our world. We are not powerless; we all have some personal power. We dream and believe we can create a new society by gathering some small power from everybody. Thank you very much for your attention and support.

Nanohana Parade Hamaoka HP:
Yukiko Hosomi, a native of Shizuoka City who has spent the last decade living in the United Kingdom, happened to be home visiting this past weekend, and attended the event in order to voice her concerns. “International news sources have called the Hamaoka plant the most dangerous nuclear power facility in the world, and so it is unbelievable to me that so many Japanese citizens—even ones in Shizuoka—seem to be quiet about it," commented Hosomi, who is pictured in the photo at the top of this post carrying her own handmade sign. "What frustrates me particularly is that many people do not realise that their complacency is actually supporting the continuation of the status quo. A new wave of demonstrations seems to be emerging, however, and so I truly hope that this event represents a new beginning whereby Japan will say a strong 'no' to nuclear power.”

Toby Siguenza, a teacher from the United States living in Shizuoka prefecture, agreed with Hosomi's optimism. "I saw everyone from octogenarians using walkers with protest signs strapped onto their backs to a baby wearing a home-made anti-radiation T-shirt—hardly people whom I would have imagined as 'protesters'", she commented. "More and more people are speaking out, and it is so inspiring to know that this issue has gone from faction to movement in a mere month."

One of the final speakers at the event emphasized to the crowd:“We have learned through the recent crisis that we cannot believe what the mainstream media tells us—so it is critical that we continue to share information amongst ourselves. Our struggle is not finished today when we disperse, however. Since the Hamaoka plant is still operating, it is just the start."

Top: Musicians adding energy to the day's events

Right: "Against Nuclear Power!"

Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper included this recent article calling for Hamaoka to be shut down, and the video below from Al Jazeera probes the dangers existing at the facility.

The next gathering in Shizuoka is scheduled for June 11th, exactly three months after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster occurred, with solidarity demonstrations occurring in other cities worldwide. Watch this site for further information.

If you have not yet signed the international petition spearheaded by local residents to stop the plant’s operation, please do so and spread the word! If you are on Facebook, please also click “like” on the Stop Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in earthquake zone in Japan page in order to bring more attention to this critical issue. Many thanks!

--Kimberly Hughes

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kenzaburo Oe prevails in "Okinawa Notes" lawsuit

Kyodo via The Japan Times:
Saturday, April 23, 2011

'Okinawa Notes' suit favors Oe

The Supreme Court said Friday it has finalized the judgment in favor of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe in a libel suit filed against him and his publisher for writing in a 1970 book of essays that the Japanese military forced civilians to kill themselves and others en masse during the Battle of Okinawa.

In its Thursday ruling, the court turned down an appeal from two plaintiffs who claimed in the 2005 suit that Oe's depiction disgraces two garrison commanders they represent and sought an injunction to block further printing of the book.

But the top court's five-justice First Petty Bench did not touch on whether the military issued an order for civilians to commit mass suicide, unlike lower courts that found the military was involved and thus adjudged Oe's descriptions as not defamatory.
Read the rest here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day festival this weekend at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

Fom Philip Brasor's "Earth Day Japan Needed More Than Ever" posted at The Japan Times:
Plans for this year's Earth Day festivities in Tokyo, which organizers predict will attract some 140,000 people, remain fluid in light of the disaster, but in addition to fund-raising activities for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami, one of the themes of this year's festival is saving electricity, an issue that has become much more immediate with the loss of the Fukushima nuclear reactors and the probability of another hot and muggy summer in the city. Electricity for the entire festival this year, including the power to drive public address systems for concerts and lectures, will be generated using recycled cooking oil, or so-called biodiesel fuel. There will even be a car on display that was designed to run on hemp oil.

More than 400 nonprofit organizations and nongovernment organizations will be on hand manning booths, distributing literature and selling wares. The 27 restaurants participating in the Earth Day Kitchen will serve dishes containing ingredients that are locally grown, organic and free of genetically modified elements. The president of Earth Day Tokyo since its beginnings, author, naturalist and Japan Times contributor C.W. Nicol, will honor 2011 as the International Year of Forests by presiding over the Earth Day Forest...Patrons are encouraged to bring their own dishware to cut down on waste, and those who do will receive a discount on all prepared food. The nonprofit recycling group A Seed Japan will provide utensils to those who come empty-handed, but you pay for it...

There will also be workshops in Japanese paper-making and various exhibitions, including one by Japan's only photojournalism magazine, Days Japan, featuring photographs related to issues having to do with the environment and poverty.

At least four nonprofit food resellers will be in the park selling fresh organic produce grown on farms in the Kanto region, some even within the Tokyo city limits. In many cases the farmers who actually grew the fruits and vegetables on offer will be counting the change. Other outlets for consumables include a Himalaya Bazaar featuring handmade clothing and accessories, and a Fair Trade Village occupied by various foundations dedicated to helping small producers in foreign countries get real value for their goods.
Read Brasor's entire article at the above link and find out more about Earth Day Tokyo 2011, Apr. 23-24, Yoyogi Park and other locations in the Shibuya-Harajuku area at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Plea for helping domesticated animals in Fukushima: Please email the Japanese government

Activists sneak into evacuation zone to save dying animals. (Photo: CNN)

The photos of tethered and starving dogs in Fukushima are reminiscent of images from Hurricane Katrina aftermath when the U.S. and Lousiana governments ignored the welfare of animals that hurricane evacuees were forced to abandon.

Now that the Kan administration has made the Fukushima exclusion zone official, what about the animals nuclear evacuees had to leave behind? They couldn't bring their 600,000 domesticated animals to shelters. Most have starved to death.

Pet rescuers including Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support had been independently going into the exclusion zone to save dogs and cats. Animal owners want the government to euthanize those than remain rather than let them starve to death; none want to leave them behind to suffer:
A man, 73, who looked after 20 cattle in Tomiokamachi, said he often left his evacuation center to go and feed his cows. "I know each of these cows right down to their facial details and individual characteristics. I don't want to see them suffer," he said.
Ken White at the San Francisco Chronicle shares a letter from a reader:
My name is Mikiko Kuroda who live in San Mateo,California. I really want to act about rescueing animal in Fukushima, in Japan. I am a Japanese and I really want to inform many people in U.S how terrible to animals in Fukushima.(around nuclear plant ) Individual volunteers groups have tried to rescue dogs, cats, horses, cows and more. However, unfortunately they try to survive by eating each other or they die of starvation.

I saw a lot of horrible pictures. And also I have contacted volunteers. Many people in Japan have appealed to Japanese government, but Japan is backward country for animals so the government is no reaction.

Please inform to people in U.S and write e-mail from U.S about rescuing Fukushima animals to Japanese government. This is e-mail address:

Thank you very much. Mikiko Kuroda
Let me add only one P.S. to this message, and it's one that won't give any easy answers or comfort. We've all seen many requests for funds from national and international organizations claiming to be helping the animals in Japan and asking for your financial support. My advice: be cautious; try as best you can to really determine if the support is effective. Although charlatans do certainly exist in the world of charities, the larger concern here is out-of-country efforts to help which fall short because of no in-country connections. We see this every time there is an international disaster, and even organizations with international sounding names may not be an effective path for getting your dollars where you want them to go. Kuroda's request above is, hopefully, a way to help motivate Japan's government to remain mindful of the non-human victims, and I think that may be especially valuable right now.

Thich Nhat Hanh's and Joanna Macy's thoughts for Japan, humanity, & all beings

Via Jizo Chronicles, Thich Nhat Hanh's and Joanna Macy's thoughts for Japan after the great earthquake and tsunami:
Dear Friends in Japan,

As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died.

The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.

An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.

Here in France and at our practice centers all over the world, our bothers and sisters will continue to chant for you, sending you the energy of peace, healing and protection. Our prayers are with you.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Nuclear-free activist Joanna Macy who spent time with the people  of Novozybkyov, a village about 100 miles from Chernobyl, in 1992, addresses the nuclear disaster in Fukushima:
Dear Ones,

In this hour of anguish we reach out to our Japanese colleagues and all beings of that noble and stricken land.  As our hearts unite in prayer for them, we experience our own non-separation from the immeasurable suffering inflicted by the successive earthquakes and tsunamis, and by the nuclear catastrophe these have triggered.

Having just begun the last week of my three-month retreat, I break silence to give voice to my solidarity with you all.  By speaking to you, I remind myself of what we can remember in this time of grief and fear.

It helps me to remember what I learned in Novozybkov with survivors of Chernobyl: that is that there are two basic responses to massive collective trauma.  One response is to let it destroy our trust in life and in each other, plummeting us into division, blame and despair.  The other is to let the shared cataclysm strengthen us into greater solidarity, and deepen our knowledge of our mutual belonging in the web of life. Your communications are evidence already of that second response.  Indeed the Work That Reconnects has been preparing us for it.

We remember to breathe.  As we have practiced, we breathe through the reports as we hear and the images of disaster. This helps us simply take in what is happening, and not be blocked by horror or the desire to fix or flee.

We also breathe with those who are caught up in this tragedy, in the intensity of panic, shock, and loss. Feel how this breathing-with helps your heart-mind fearlessly and tenderly embrace them.

You see, if we understand and accept the Great Unraveling, we can let it break us open to greater realizations of our innate solidarity.  That this realization in itself is a kind of “enlightenment” has been brought home to me in my retreat by two great teachers of Japan.

One is the 13th century Zen master Dogen.  He illumines our connections with the ancestors and the future ones, so that we can experience these connections in the immediate present moment.  So does the other figure, the archetypal bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who is beloved in Japan, where he/she is known as Bodhisattva Jizo, with images everywhere.  Both of them help us realize that we are not alone in this moment of time, but surrounded by past and future generations ready to help.  We who inhabit the present can do what they cannot: that is to make choices and take action/  But the past and future ones are right at our side with support and guidance.

Also, to hold steady and open in this anguished time, try the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects. As I take in the catastrophe in Japan, the Spiral serves to ground my heart-mind, and widen its dimensions.  It brings gratitude for all those at work to bring support and clear reporting.  It helps me honor the heartbreak, to simply open to it and let it reveals our true nature and mutual belonging. It shows me how solidarity can move us forward, and offer us practical, immediate steps to alleviate suffering and enact safe, sustainable, and sane energy policies. An obvious urgency is to stop US government subsidies and loan guarantees to nuclear industries, including bills that are before Congress now.

As radiation from Fukushima spreads, I know that protection of self and family is on our minds.  I’m asking Anne to append here two kinds of information: about health measures, and some links to breaking news from Japan. See our page dedicated to this issue:



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Post-3/11 Japan: "Slightly Darkened Streets of Tokyo"

Via darwinfish105, this time-lapse video, "Slightly Darkened Streets of Tokyo," reveals some efforts at post-3/11 energy conservation in Japan's capital.

Disaster relief is not a good excuse for destroying eco-systems in Okinawa for another U.S. base

It's strange some people think U.S. assistance in bringing water and food to victims of Japan's natural and nuclear disasters is an argument to build yet another U.S. military base in Okinawa.

Destroying Oura Bay, the last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, to build a mega-base, and cutting down old-growth trees in biodiverse Yanbaru, one of the last surviving subtropical rainforests in Asia, to build V-22 Osprey helipads for U.S. jungle training is the last thing Japan needs right now. The archipelago already has 100 U.S. military bases and facilities, including 30 on 20% of Okinawa.

After the earthquake and tsunami destruction of the beautiful Tohoku coastline and the ongoing irradiation of idyllic rural areas, Japan does not need (nor did it ever need) further environmental devastation by the U.S. military in Okinawa. It's long past time for the Tokyo and Washington to honor Okinawan democratically expressed choice to protect the exquisite eco-systems and peaceful villages in northern Okinawa.

CNN's Eve Bower wrote this on the day after 3/11. She describes continued Okinawan efforts to save Henoko Village, Oura Bay, Takae Village, and Yanbaru Forest from unwanted and unneeded destruction by the U.S. military. "Earthquake response doesn't shake Okinawans' opposition to U.S. bases:"
Every morning at 7:30, Hiroshi Ashitomi trudges up sand-dusted steps, pries open a metal folding chair, and joins a handful of his fellow retirees under a plastic tent, facing seaward. They are staging a protest.

Their "sit-ins" are in opposition to a perceived threat that many of his neighbors also fear: the planned expansion of a U.S. military base on Okinawa's east-facing Henoko Bay.

On Saturday, however, both the routines of Ashitomi and of the U.S. military were upset. And even though the reason for that disruption -- a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami -- demonstrated the advantage of having U.S. bases, Ashitomi and others say they will not alter their efforts to get the U.S. military off the island...

In an interview with CNN Saturday, Susumu Inamine, mayor of the city of Nago on Okinawa, pointed out that he was elected on a platform of "no new construction of U.S. facilities" on the island. He also recited a litany of statistics that many in Okinawa have committed to memory: 75% of all U.S. bases in Japan are on Okinawa, an island that makes up less than 1% of Japan's territory; and 20% of the land on the island is already taken by U.S. bases.

Inamine said his constituents feel that the Japanese central government requires a disproportionate "burden" of Okinawans, relative to residents of other parts of Japan. He wants some of the U.S. presence currently on his island to be relocated to another Japanese island.
Read Bower's entire article here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is another Pacific War inevitable? John Feffer says "No" & brings clarity & hope to the issue of changing excessive military spending in the A-P

(Okinawa Network for the Global Day on Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) banner flying at Tent Village, Henoko, Okinawa: Photo: Okinawa Network for the Global Day on Action on Military Spending (GDAMS))

Some pundits tell us the U.S. is going to war with a "rising China" in the near future. That's why they want to spend more on missile defense surrounding China, military expansion in South Korea and Guam, and another U.S. military mega-base on Okinawa (although 30 U.S. bases and facilities already exist on 20% of the island).

But is another Pacific War inevitable?

John Feffer says "No" and brings clarity and hope to a discussion on excessive global military spending and how we can stop the march toward more wars in this great National Public Radio (NPR) interview, with good audience Q&A. (Head's up: a fund-raising drive interrupts the interview; just use the button to scroll through those parts).

Feffer, an editor at Foreign Policy in Focus and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on social justice, peace, and environmental issues, explains how the Global Day of Action on Military Spending came into being. Last summer, he and others at IPS got together with people from around the world concerned about excessive global military spending that has doubled over the last decade. Without attention, they didn't see any prospect of change, even with the severe economic recession. People facing crises all over the world like global warming don't have the money to deal with these challenges because of the money wasted on military spending. So they decided to have a global day focused on military spending.

IPS' major partner is the International Peace Bureau (IPB), located in Geneva, first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and about one hundred other organizations are working with GDAMS; Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pax Christi, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and many nationally based organizations in the 35 countries involved.

They chose April 11 because this is the date the Stockholm International Peace Institute releases its figures for 2010. Their goal: to make sure the photographs in the media accompanying these figures were of people rallying for a reduction in global military spending rather than photographs of fighter jets.

Some notes from the interview...

• Excessive and Wasteful Military Spending; U.S. versus China

Sadly, U.S. military spending has doubled over the last ten years.

Number two is China; its economy has grown and some of that money is going to military spending. China roughly spends between 1/7th and 1/10th of what the U.S. spends on military. Its total military spending equals what the U.S. wastes on military spending according to the General Accounting Office (GAO), which identified $70 billion annual waste on military spending in the U.S. budget. That's how much China spends annually.

Russia's economy has turned around from its collapse at the end of the Cold War, largely because of sales from oil and natural gas; it has returned to high levels of military spending that brought it to economic collapse in the 1990's. India and Saudi Arabia are also in the Top Ten.

There have been a number of scandals involved in Pentagon contracts. There was a student from Florida buying cheap ammunition from China and reselling it to the Pentagon; he was indicted. The Pentagon can't track all the number it spends. Most goes to the major contractors: Boeing, Lockheed, Martin. They get U.S. assistance in selling military equipment overseas. There are private contractors who do much of the same work our soldiers used to do. Money goes to healthcare, benefits. This totals around $650 billion in the base budget alone.

• Limiting a Militarized Economy & Expanding Our Civilian Economy: Jobs & Arms Trade

There's only been one time when there's been a reduction in military spending — after the Cold War. That money went to deficit reduction.

Reducing military spending involves an interwoven set of issues. A jobs conundrum accompanies the military spending issue. Factories for components of weapons systems have been distributed carefully across the United States to make it difficult to cut spending. Politicians don't want to close weapons factories and thereby cut jobs in their states.

The question is how to repurpose those manufacturing facilities. If you look at a comparison, a dollar spent on military industries versus a dollar spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure repair, then you find that the latter produces more jobs than the military industry. There was a lively debate on repurposing military factories during the stimulus spending. Unfortunately that was a one-time amount of money; a lot of it hasn't passed through the pipeline, and it hasn't resulted in any structural changes yet.

Have we gotten past they days of $100 bullets yet? There's still enormous waste that we see in cost-overruns. Manufacturers typically low-ball to get contracts and then bill in cost-overruns.

This is a global problem because the military arms market and trade is global. We have to do this globally, restraining the arms trade as we reduce arms spending. So GDAMS is global: a women's demonstration in Seoul, village protests in Kerala, demonstration in front of the White House. Part of this is to build a movement. Part of this is to discuss what works at the local, regional, national, and global levels. We are in the process of identifying effective political tools and developing alliances.

GDAMS is not about eliminating, but, instead, limiting military spending: a problem since Dwight Eisenhower's famous speech on the military-industrial-congressional complex. There are ways to reduce military spending that can make us safer. One way is to cut back on military exports to countries that end up using those weapons against us.

• More About Wasteful Military Spending

The accident-prone V-22 Osprey is an example of a weapons that has had a lot of cost overruns and is an unnecessary addition. We have a plan to expand the U.S. Navy at a time when this is simply fiscally irresponsible. We have plenty of ships. We don't know what to do with all of our ships. Missile defense is problematic for a number of issues. One is technical: does it work? Another is that it encourages a lot of other countries to build more weapons simply to address U.S. & allied missile defense.

• Is Change Possible?

First of all, we have to remind ourselves that military spending hasn't always been this way. The U.S. economy has only been militarized for the past 40 to 45 years. That's not a long time looking at history.

We can reverse what we created. We can roll it back to what the U.S. had before the Cold War. In the U.S., political campaign finance reform is a necessary step to restrain the influence lobbying has on military spending. We can prevent the collapse of our economy overburdened by military spending and build up viable manufacturing.

Citizens were able to stop the war in Vietnam. We were able to influence the U.S. polices in Iraq and Afghanistan by drawing down those wars. We have been able to change things in this country much more powerful than the military-industrial complex.

Other movements have faced much more challenge. Racism in the U.S. was much more powerful, yet the Civil Rights Movement had tremendous impact. We have this capability.

We can take inspiration from other countries that were able to affect U.S. military bases, whether in Puerto Rico, Latin American, in the Philippines, and other places in which our 1,000-based base empire.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Over three thousand march in Osaka on April 16th- No more Nuclear!

"We don't need nuclear power, nuclear weapons either"
No more nuclear power,
Protect our children,
Protect the women,
Protect the men,
Protect Japan,
Protect the world,
Give us back Fukushima,
Give us back our land,
We want to drink milk,
We want to eat rice,
We want to eat vegetables,
We want to see tomorrow,
We want to be alive tomorrow,
We want to be alive the day after tomorrow,
No more nuclear
Let's put an end to nuclear power together!
(Chant sung at Osaka April 16th Demonstration)
Anti-nuclear chants rang through the streets of Osaka, as over 3000 demonstrators filled the streets in solidarity against the continued use of nuclear power by Japan in the face of the unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Inspired by the 17,500 people-strong demonstration in Tokyo on April 10th, people young and old, walking on two feet or in wheel chairs, school teachers, business people, politicians, and celebrities gathered their creative energy together to raise their voices on behalf of those that can not. Some demonstrators, fearful of losing their jobs for participating in the demonstration, covered themselves with masks and hats so as not to be identified by their respective companies as they marched in the three-hour demonstration.

This young man led protesters in the group I walked with.

The demonstration was commenced with speeches from anti-nuclear movement leaders from the following 8 organizations:
Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action spoke of her visit to Fukushima prior to the disaster. She could see the fear in people's eyes as they discussed the potential for disaster at Fukushima.

A Taiwanese man described how the nuclear crisis in Japan is providing momentum for the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, where there stands a nuclear plant constructed by Toshiba. An Anti-nuclear Power Network of Nara member shared her frustration with the city of Nara. Her attempts to convince politicians to create a plan to move away from nuclear power fell on deaf ears.

Some estimate 50% of energy in Kansai originates from nuclear reactors. We have yet to see if Japan, the third largest producer of nuclear energy in the world, will reverse it's goal to derive 50% of its domestic energy production from nuclear plants.

While politicians, including Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, continue to make statements in favor of the use of nuclear power in Japan, others, such as newly elected Kanagawa governor Yuji Kuroiwa, are promoting a shift to renewable energy. Drawing upon the experience of Kamakura, where the Great Buddha 800 meters from the shore was swept away by a tsunami 1100 years ago, Kuroiwa is criticizing leaders who propose that building higher walls along the shores will protect Japan from tsunamis, and instead is proposing an end to nuclear power and investment in the solar banks.

For some people, including popular comedians who wish to remain unidentified, it was their first time to participate in any public demonstration. A 32-year old school teacher, hidden behind a mask, explained his reasons for joining the demonstration. "I wanted to show my solidarity with the people who want to see a future with no nuclear power. Nuclear power has the potential to destroy the world, it can kill the earth. We should invest money in alternative energy creation. I will not stop raising my voice." It is time to listen to the voices of the people and end Japan's dependence on nuclear power.

Over 3000 people march in Osaka

Show your support by adding your name to the petition to close down the Hamaoka Nuclear Power plant.

- Jennifer Teeter

Peace Talk Between Japanese & Iraqi Students, April 17th, Keio University

It has been eight years since the war in Iraq began. These days, we do not even hear the word “Iraq” very much in the news.

The fact is, however, that people in Iraq continue to live with confusion and uncertainty about their futures. Depleted uranium used throughout the war has resulted in continuing cases of leukemia and other cancers, many people whose lives were threatened have become refugees, and life for Iraqis is becoming more and more difficult in general.

Insofar as Japan participated and contributed vast amounts of money to the war, our country in fact has a connection to this situation. At this event, our purpose will be to look at the present lives of Iraqi students—whose world was literally turned upside down by the war—as well as to hear their views toward Japan.

The event will provide an opportunity to hear views not available within the mainstream media, as well as to participate directly in discussions with Iraqi students. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about creating true peace, not through weapons—but through dialogue!

Peace Talk: Iraqi and Japanese Students
Sunday, April 17th
Keio University, Mita Campus, South Building Rm. 2B42

Click here to see a map (Japanese only).

☆ Entry: Free!
☆ Interpretation will be provided
☆ No reservations required
☆ Please tell your friends!

Peace Talk Organizing Committee:

For more information, see the blog of humanitarian aid worker Nahoko Takato (Japanese only).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fellowship of Reconciliation: Do those who profit from war, hatred, and bigotry fear peace?

Mark Johnson of Fellowship of Reconciliation, "Thousands Call for Peace in Protest of Continuing Wars": "As many as 5000 gathered in Union Square (NYC) on Saturday, April 9th for a rally followed by a march to Foley Square."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Radioactive materials from Fukushima Daiichi reached the US by March 18, Iceland by March 20, and Europe by March 22

Radioactive materials from Fukushima Daiichi reached the US by March 18, Iceland by March 20, and Europe by March 22 (Kyushu University and Tokyo University research. Image: Jiji Press)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tokyo extends evacuation zone; raises nuclear emergency to Chernobyl-level

Just hours after our field radiation team held a press conference calling for further evacuation around Fukushima, the Japanese government announced that it will extend the mandatory evacuation zone around the stricken nuclear plant to 30km and evacuate the contaminated towns of Namie, Iitate and parts of Minamisoma within one month.
Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis to the highest level on Tuesday, putting it on a par with the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 because of the amount of radiation released into the air and sea.

As another major aftershock rattled the earthquake-ravaged east of the country, a fire broke out at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, although engineers later appeared to have extinguished the blaze. Developments in recent days suggest the operator of the stricken facility is no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors, which is critical to bringing down the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods.

An official at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said that based on cumulative levels of radiation released, the severity of the incident had been raised to 7, the worst on an internationally recognized scale...The month-long nuclear crisis that has gripped Japan following an earthquake and tsunami has claimed up to 28,000 lives and the estimated cost stands at $300 billion, making it the world's most expensive disaster.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was around 10 percent that of Chernobyl. However, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) warned the release could eventually exceed Chernobyl if leaks were not halted. "Radiation released into the atmosphere peaked from March 15 to 16. Radiation is still being released, but the amount now has fallen considerably," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, NISA's deputy director-general.

Monday, April 11, 2011

17,500 gather in Tokyo on Sunday in lively events to demand clean energy, urge halt to Hamaoka nuclear power plant!

Demonstrators flanked by police in Tokyo's Koenji neighborhood

Residents from Tokyo and nearby prefectures poured into the streets on Sunday for the April 10th 'Stop Nuclear Power Plants! Global Action Day', issuing impassioned calls for the Japanese government to stop its reliance on nuclear power.

Two separate events were held in Tokyo on Sunday, with organizers estimating a total of 17,500 people in attendance—more than twice the numbers who attended a No Nukes Festa in 2009. While NHK reported that only 2000 attended, some organizers estimated the total figure at something closer to 20,000.

The first event was held in Tokyo’s Shiba Park, where 2,500 people showed up to call on government and electric power company officials to immediately stop the Hamaoka nuclear power reactors. The plant sits atop the junction of two tectonic plates in the prefecture of Shizuoka, where—in addition to presently ongoing aftershocks from last month's quake—a large earthquake is said to be overdue. A petition to stop the plant is now circulating widely throughout Japan, and supporters from overseas are urged to add their voices. More information about the plant, as well as the petition itself—which will be submitted to the Japanese government, electric power companies, local authorities in Japan and related companies—may be found here at the Stop! Hamaoka Nuclear power plant website.

Meanwhile, some 15,000 attendees—mostly young people in their 20's and 30's who learned about the event online—added fresh energy to Japan’s often traditionally somber demonstrations at a colorful parade and live music gathering in the artsy neighborhood of Koenji in western Tokyo. Parade-goers carried signs with all manner of creative self-expression regarding the tragedy, and many dressed in costumes or decorated their face masks with designs and slogans as the event pulsated with energy and emotion from the early afternoon on into the night.

Banner reading “We Prioritize Life Over Electricity”, lovingly handcrafted by Crystal Uchino, author of “Rise Like Tsunamis After the Earthquakes”

The group I marched with chanted slogans that included the following:
Give us back our land
Give us back our work
Give us back our lives
Give us back Fukushima

Radiation is dangerous
How can this possibly be “ecological”?
We don’t need nuclear power
Nuclear power is dangerous

Stop Hamaoka
Stop the Monju reactor
Don’t build the Kaminoseki plant
Stop nuclear power
30 year-old Japanese-Brazilian Sheila Yamamoto de Souza, a Tokyo resident who took part in the parade, said, “When I heard others starting to chant ‘Give us back our lives,' it really hit me hard. Even in Tokyo, our daily lives have been completely changed as we deal with fears of radiation, and I fear things will never go back to the way they were before. And we have it easy compared to others. I can’t even begin to imagine how the people who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, as well as those living near the nuclear plant in Fukushima, must be feeling right now.”

Video of Koenji demonstration

The demonstration was organized by Hajime Matsumoto, owner of a small recycled goods shop in Koenji called Shiroto no ran (Amateur Revolt), that also serves as an artist and activist collective. He wrote on his blog the day after the event: “The great thing about the event was it proved that anyone can organize something similar. I am a shop owner, and although some politicians did end up coming, I didn’t put together the event through any type of organization or structure. Truly, anyone can do this.”

Many participants had never attended any kind of demonstration before, but were inspired by fears brought on by the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima. A young couple from Chiba prefecture marching near me in Koenji among first-time attendees told me they were unsure of what to expect at the event—but felt they had to show up to voice their concerns about the dangers of nuclear power.

Top: Demonstrators carrying sunflowers with nanohana (field mustard) designs sewn on their masks—both plants are said to mitigate the effects of radiation

Right: “The cows, dogs and cats are all crying too”

Also spearheading the event were members of the Human Recovery Project, whose website describes their network as follows:

The Human Recovery Project /DIY music network "nobody for everybody" outreach is a loose group of DIY punk band people, rising up in support for victims of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant catastrophe in north-east Japan. We are based in Tokyo and work in solidarity with our nation-wide/worldwide network of DIY musicians and have already started our "gigs" to the disaster areas with band-vans full of supplies for the victims. Donations welcome!
A local musician involved with the event tweeted afterward, “The mass media in Japan is clearly afraid that the anti-nuclear wave created in Koenji today would turn into a tsunami that would reach every corner of the country, and so they just ignored us. This is no different than the fear we have seen recently on the part of dictator-led governments regarding the small struggles for freedom in Middle Eastern countries spreading elsewhere like wildfire.”

"TEPCO and nuclear mafias must go"

Watch the website of the April 10th 'Stop Nuclear Power Plants! Global Action Day' for updates on solidarity actions that took place in countries around the world including Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as cities throughout Japan.

Your assistance in spreading the word regarding the "Stop Hamaoka!" petition will also be greatly appreciated.

—Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Joseph Stiglitz on the failed risk analysis connection between the nuclear & global credit default swap meltdowns; wasteful military spending

In an interview, "Assault on Social Spending, Pro-Rich Tax Cuts Turning U.S. into Nation "Of the 1 Percent, by the 1 Percent, for the 1 Percent," with Democracy Now!, Joseph Stiglitz discusses the failed risk analysis connection between the Fukushima and credit default swap meltdowns.

The Nobel economist speaks of exorbitant, unaccounted for nuclear energy costs to the public via taxpayer subsidization and disaster clean-ups, adding that such corporate subsidization is "money stolen from the public."

Still on the subject of inefficient, wasteful government policies, Stiglitz discusses irrational, out-of-control military spending: "We are spending literally hundreds of billions of dollars for weapons that don’t work against enemies that don’t exist. The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago. And yet, if you look at our military, nobody seems to have told it that."
JUAN GONZALEZ: I wanted to ask you about another—something that you’ve written about: the connection, in terms of risk analysis, between the nuclear crisis in Japan and the meltdown of the reactors there and the credit default swaps. And I would even throw in perhaps the BP blowout, which was another example of a risk analysis that said it could never happen.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah. Well, I just wrote an interesting article making a comparison between our ability to judge what are called small probability events, you know, rare—events that are supposed to be rare—those in the financial market said that the kind of collapse that we had should happen once in a thousand years, once in the history of the universe. But we had a collapse in the 1980s, we had a problem in the 1990s, we have them every 10 years. And that shows the models are very bad, our ability to judge rare events is very bad. Now, a lot of research in behavioral economics and psychology have explained why it is that these events that don’t happen very much, we don’t have a lot of experience.

But one of the points that I raised was that these people have an incentive not to see things accurately. You know, the nuclear power industry has an incentive to tell everybody, "Oh, don’t worry. Nothing—no risk there." The financial sector had an incentive to say, "Don’t worry about these derivatives, even if they’re already a quadrillion dollars. Don’t worry, because we can manage that risk. We have systems of diversifying the risk across the economy." Clearly wrong. So, you know, when there’s so much money at stake, people have a way of seeing—of discounting these risks, especially because those risks are borne by everybody else in our society.

And, you know, nuclear power is a really interesting case, because that industry has never been commercially viable. It has always existed on the back of a government-provided insurance, that we provide as taxpayers, that they don’t pay for. And we see now in Japan that, you know, they did the same thing, and we see the cost of that. The rest of society is paying an enormous price. There is no way that the slight savings in energy cost can make up for the loss to the Japanese economy that has resulted from the nuclear explosion. And the same thing could happen here in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I loved seeing on Meet the Press right after the tsunami and the earthquake and the terrible tragedy in Japan, they had on the head of the Nuclear Energy Institute, so, you know, they represent the nuclear industry, and the host of the show saying, "Thank you so much for running in at the last minute to be here with us." And I could only think about—I mean, here he is speaking to save the butts of the nuclear industry in this country and saying there’s nothing to worry about here, as we’re saying this—well, what is looking like a partial meltdown or more.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: If the industry really believed it, let them make an unlimited liability and provide us with a guarantee that they would pick up for the financial cost of the kind of disaster that Japan is facing. And I can tell you that if you made them bear those costs, if we didn’t give them that free ride of limited liability, that industry would not exist in the United States today...

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz...let’s end on the issue of war. You wrote with Linda Bilmes the book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. That’s not talking about Afghanistan, what, $2 billion a week, the longest ongoing conflict in U.S. history. What about the cost of this?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It’s enormous. And since we wrote that book, we did—new numbers came in, and things are worse than we said. The disability rates are higher. The cost of caring for the disabled are higher. Almost one out of two people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are disabled. This is an unfunded liability of—we calculate now to be almost a trillion dollars, over $900 billion. So, one of the big ways of reducing our deficit is a—is cut back some expenditures.

I believe we could have more security with much less spending. We are spending literally hundreds of billions of dollars for weapons that don’t work against enemies that don’t exist. The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago. And yet, if you look at our military, nobody seems to have told it that.

Another way of thinking about it, we spend more money now than all the rest of the countries of the world, or almost as much as all the rest of the countries put together.

And yet, when you have a case where you might arguably want some use of it—you know, to protect people who are being killed—we say we can’t do it, even in a small country of a few million people. We say, "Oh, no. Our military can’t do anything." So we’ve been spending all this money and getting actually very little security for it. So my own feeling is that we could reduce our money, our expenditures markedly—particularly, get out of Afghanistan—and improve our security.

The Asia-Pacific Journal: "What Caused the High Cl-38 Radioactivity in the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #1?"

The Asia-Pacific Journal has become a crucial site of open discussion between nuclear engineers, physicists, scholars, and the public on the Fukushima Dai-ichi situation.

"What Caused the High Cl-38 Radioactivity in the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #1?" by F. Dalnoki-Veress with an introduction by Arjun Makhijani presents the case that the presence of chlorine isotope Cl-38 suggests a chain reaction could have happened in Fukushima unit 1 even after the reactor had been shut down.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

David McNeill: "Why I love Japan even more since the earthquake: The strength of the group is what helps people carry on"

David McNeill explores the power of the group, noting particular collective strength in the north (a bastion of slow-life culture), in an essay/love letter to Japan.

In sociology, this kind of power is called "social solidarity." In traditional societies, social solidarity emanates from the bonds between family and kinship groups (extended family, neighbors, friends, community groups); rooted in place, nature, and shared history.
"Why I love Japan even more since the earthquake
The strength of the group is what helps people carry on"
David McNeill, April 7, 2011

A week into Japan’s crisis, when many of my spooked friends had already decamped west, south or abroad, I urged my pregnant partner Nanako to leave Tokyo for the apparent safety of Kansai. She wasn’t happy and for good reason: I was staying behind, her parents were in Tokyo and she knew nobody in Osaka...

Exhausted and emotional after Nanako’s tearful departure, I headed for a coffee shop in the station where four perfectly turned-out waitresses serenaded my entry with a singsong "irrashaimase!” and fussed over my order with typically attentive service.

“Take your time,” said a beaming young woman as she passed me my coffee. At which point I started crying.

I wrote something later that day for The Irish Times, pondering this admirable and mysterious ability of many Japanese people to function normally as the scenery collapses around them. How black-suited salarymen stayed at their posts, housewives calmly queued for water and fuel, and waitresses still acted as though the most important thing in the world was my ¥280 order.

Car navigation systems still direct visitors to the post office and the local government building, which are no longer there.
Some say that these people are just falling back on routine because they don’t know any better.

“Robots,” said one of my friends disparagingly, after I told him how a video store clerk kept calling during the week to remind me to return an overdue DVD.

But I don’t agree. Those waitresses are human beings with families who worry about radiation too. I like to think they stay focused because to not do so is to let down others, and that invites chaos....
Read his entire essay here.

More from David McNeill: "Communities Struggle to Rebuild Shattered Lives on Japan’s Coast: David McNeill in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture"; "Homeless long for pleasure of a bath".

More on Iwate's slow-life culture at Japan for Sustainability's website.

David McNeill's update on radiation-hit Minami-Soma: Mayor's video plea sparked worldwide attention & relief effort, but the crisis is not over

Back from the Brink

By David McNeill -- April 7, 2011
The Asia-Pacific Journal

Like most Japanese men, Katsunobu Sakurai read apocalyptic comic book stories about the future when he was a boy. He never expected to live through one of those stories himself.

A common plot sees a modern city reduced overnight to a ghostly husk as fears of nuclear contamination empties it of people. Businesses shut and food, water and petrol run out. Old people left behind begin dying. The city mayor makes a desperate televised appeal for help. Such is real life in Sakurai’s city of Minami-Soma.

Over 71,000 people lived here before March 11. Today there are fewer than 10,000. About 1,470 are dead or missing, the remainder are scattered throughout Japan in over 300 different locations, “as far as we can tell,” adds Sakurai, who took over as mayor in January. Dangling from his neck are two radiation counters, a reminder that the nightmare that descended on his city last month has yet to end.

Mayor Sakurai briefly became one of the most famous faces of Japan’s disaster when he posted an 11-minute video on YouTube pleading for help. The March 11 quake and tsunami had pulverised the city’s coast, but it was its proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant 25 km away that transformed the city’s predicament into an existential crisis.

As a series of explosions ripped through the plant, the government told its citizens to stay indoors to avoid radiation. Journalists fled, deliveries stopped coming and the locals were left to fend for themselves. “Everyone who could leave left. We were not getting food or fuel. Life was unbearable,” recalls Sakurai.

Exhausted, he sat in front of a digital camcorder in his office and recorded one of the most haunting dispatches from the disaster zone, reaching outside Japan’s borders and rounding on Tokyo and the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) for abandoning Minami-Soma. “With the scarce information we can gather from the government or Tepco, we are left isolated. I beg you to help us,” he said.

The video scored over 200,000 hits and sparked a worldwide relief effort that continues to send aid and help flooding into Sakurai’s office. But he remains angry at how his citizens were treated. “The video put pressure on the government. But there was not a single phone call from Tepco for 22 days,” he says, still wearing the same grey boiler suit he wore in the YouTube video. “They gave us no information at all.”

Today, Tepco official Issei Takaki is permanently seconded to the Minami-Soma city office. His job is to report on the frantic daily fight inside the Fukushima plant to stop radiation leaking from its damaged reactors. “We have a seven-AM meeting with the mayor every day where I report the reactor temperatures, pressure, contamination levels and anything else he wants to know,” explains Takaki.

One of the hundreds of workers at the nuclear facility when the March 11 quake/tsunami struck, he spent 10 days locked down inside during the worst of the crisis, when he often thought he was going to die. But the last few days in this town have been almost as difficult. “People are angry” he accepts. “They stop me to say they want the plant fixed so they can return to their old lives.”

In the last week, some of Minami-Soma’s citizens have begun drifting back, while warily watching the wounded plant up the coast. Supermarkets, restaurants and most of the bigger companies remain shut, but some of the smaller shops in the city are reopening. “I left my daughter in Tokyo to come back to work,” explains Mayumi Hayashi, who serves customers in a half-empty Seven-Eleven convenience store about a kilometer from the city office. “I told her to stay there until the end of the month, at least until we see if the plant is safe.”

Few profess much faith in Tepco, which has dumped almost 8,000 tons of toxic water into the local seas since Monday. Another 60,0000 tons is on site. Tepco admitted yesterday that the level of highly radioactive water inside concrete tunnels in the No. 2 reactor is rising. Engineers are trying to prevent a buildup of hydrogen inside reactor 1, the prelude to another possible explosion. Nobody believes the crisis is over.

“The radiation doesn’t seem so dangerous now but who knows what will happen?” frets Rikio Watanabe, a truck driver who returned from an evacuation center this week to his home on the city outskirts. The plant is never far from their minds, he says, recalling how they felt the ground tremble when the explosions began there three weeks ago. His wife Miyoko can no longer work at a local food cooperative since sales of mildly radioactive potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables have been banned. “Life is difficult but it’s better to be at home,” she says.

Mayor Sakurai frets that the plant will hobble, perhaps destroy the town’s return from the brink. The government has just announced it may expand the evacuation zone around the plant, emptying Minami-Soma of its last 10,000 citizens.

As he speaks, the tap-tap of a house being repaired drifts in from outside. Life is returning to the city center. But many people are keeping their children far away. He has heard reports that some are being bullied because of fears about contamination. His parents are among the evacuees.

“The radiation here is low,” he insists, showing one of his counters, which reads 0.9 microsieverts. The second shows he has accumulated 16 microsieverts in four days. At its worst, he says, it was about 10 microsieverts an hour. “It’s worse outside the 30km zone. “Radiation doesn’t travel in neat circles.”

He says he has never despaired. “On the surface, we’re starting to move forward and radiation is falling slowly but by far the biggest problem is the Fukushima reactors. I think the accident shows we have to stop building nuclear plants. The radiation doesn’t stop in Japan, it goes all around the world.”

David McNeill writes from Tokyo for The Independent, The Irish Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.
For extensive, deep coverage on the nuclear disaster in Japan, see more at The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Disaster survivors neglected in shelters: "We don’t know what to do. Should we try to relocate? The government isn't telling us anything."

There's no excuse for disaster survivors stranded in shelters in northern Japan to continue to be cold, hungry, thirsty, and without medical supplies and assistance.

Jon Mitchell gives voice to stranded and neglected earthquake and tsunami survivors in northern Japan who still have no heating, and inadequate blankets, food and water:

Tohoku people are renowned for their taciturn manners, and at first, people were reluctant to speak. Ten or fifteen minutes into the interviews, however, when they realized I wasn’t searching for a 5-second sound bite, something in them seemed to give way. Their stories came out in a flow of pain, guilt and disbelief at what they had experienced. Time and time again, they described the Hollywood-like disconnect of racing before the massive tsunami. “It was as though we were in a movie.”

There was another phrase that was just as common in these survivors’ testimonies. No matter how bad their homes had been damaged or how many of their friends and relatives were missing, Ishinomaki’s residents assured us that their losses were negligible. “There are other people far worse off than us.”

When the tsunami hit, I’d run back to my house to get some warm clothes. My house is a little old and I was worried that, as the waters rose, it wouldn’t be able to survive. So I jumped onto my neighbor’s veranda - their house is newer. I stayed on their balcony all night.

One day later, the waters were still waist deep. But after a couple of days, they’d receded to my knees.

Now, we stay here in this school classroom with 40 other people. We have no way to leave. Our cars have been washed away. But even if we had them, there’s no gas available. We don’t know what to do. Should we try to relocate? Should we stay? The government isn't telling us anything.

Tadahiro Haga

 I was working in my office when the earthquake struck. It came in three distinct waves. As soon as it was over, I put on the radio and heard the tsunami warning. I jumped on my bicycle and went door to door warning people to flee to high ground. Hundreds of people were running from the port area, screaming that the tsunami was coming. I heard the roar of the water and cycled as hard as I could towards this school. I ran up to the second floor and when I looked down, the whole of the grounds were two meters deep in water.

Now, two weeks on, there are 500 people taking shelter here in Minato Elementary School. We need food and water, blankets - it gets so cold that we wake up in the middle of the night in pain. A lot of the older evacuees are traumatized. In the daytime we have doctors, but when people grow sick at night, it’s impossible to do anything for them until the next day.

Yoshiaki Shoji
Read more and find out about Peace Boat's work in Tohoku here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Anti-Nuclear Demo Scheduled for Sunday, April 10 in Koenji, Tokyo

Via  Time Out Tokyo:
Japanese anti-nuclear demos aren't unusual, but they've never been very well attended. Until now, that is. A protest march in Ginza on March 27, campaigning against nuclear power, saw around 1,200 people turn out to express their displeasure - hardly the vast swathes you'd expect in other world capitals, but around 40 times more than the monthly gathering usually attracts (a hardcore gang of 30). Similarly, a March 20 protest in Shibuya attracted 1,000 disgruntled protesters.

The biggest yet, or so the organisers hope, will be the Hangenbatsu Choukyodai Demo (literally, the 'Anti-Nuclear Power Plants Super Huge Demo'), taking place in Koenji Chuo Park on April 10. The event looks like being part protest, part rock concert, part charity event. The line-up features DJs Axeman and Yahman, MCs Rankin Taxi and Rumi, and live bands including Jintara-Mvta, a raucous big band that includes members of Cicala-Mvta, Soul Flower Union and others. The event will kick off at 2pm, and the concert/demo will run between 3pm and 5pm, at which point the audience is encouraged to move to the Koenji Kitaguchi Hiroba area to donate money.

The cash will go partly towards supporting the people of Koenji's sister city Minami Souma, a town located within the 30km Fukushima evacuation zone, and partly to the Sendai Birdland, a charity collective made up of musicians who are actively involved in getting supplies to Tohoku.
See the website of the April 10th 'Stop Nuclear Power Plants! Global Action Day' for more information about the Koenji event, as well as information in various languages regarding solidarity demonstrations taking place on the same day in locales around the world, including Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Dear Peace Not War Japan supporters and Everyone Who Attended Spring Love Harukaze,

Dear Peace Not War Japan supporters and Everyone Who Attended Spring Love Harukaze,

Many thanks to those of you who came out to Yoyogi Park last weekend for the Spring Love Harukaze 2011 event to pay your respects to the victims of the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake, as well as contribute to disaster relief, hear a lineup of speakers on nuclear power-related issues, and enjoy the great food and music.

Thanks to everyone's donations, we were able to raise a total of ¥225,941 for disaster relief over the course of the weekend.

We will be posting information shortly on the official event website (regarding which organizations the money will be distributed to. We offer our deepest thanks to everyone who came out to the event and contributed!

An article with event highlights may be read at TTT and Facebook.

We will keep you posted regarding upcoming events, and wish you all the very best in the meantime.

With thanks and hope,

Peace Not War Japan organizers
Hiroshi Fukui, Kimberly Hughes, Miho Yazawa

Subject: Spring Love春風のイベントご報告
Peace Not War Japanのサポーターのみなさまへ、

4月2日〜3日、「Spring Love春風2011」のために、代々木公園






Peace Not War Japan運営委員

Greenpeace: Field team finds high levels of contamination outside of Fukushima evacuation zone; calls to widen evacuation

Image - Radiation expert Rianne Teule checks crops for contamination 
Christian Åslund. Photo: Greenpeace)

Greenpeace: "Field team finds high levels of contamination outside of Fukushima evacuation zone":
Our radiation monitoring teams have discovered high levels of contamination in crops grown on the outskirts of Minamisoma city in Japan. The data was collected from the gardens of Minamisoma city residents, and registered well over the official limits for spinach and other vegetables. This is bad news amid already serious concerns over the health risks to residents and a lack of official information from Japanese government.

“In several Minamisoma gardens, the vegetables were too contaminated for consumption,” reports Rianne Teule, who is leading our food testing team. “The owner of one garden with contaminated spinach told us that she had received no information from authorities on the radiation risks to her crops, despite reports that government tests on plants in Minamisoma have been underway since March 18.”

The government has been publishing raw data from its own field monitoring. However, its assessment is far from comprehensive. Measurements taken by our radiation team in several parts of Minamisoma city show levels of up to 4.5 microSievert per hour, as opposed to the relatively low levels of 0.7 microSievert per hour recorded at the only official monitoring point in Minamisoma City.

While the Japanese government’s data might not be incorrect, it doesn’t actually give the public the full picture, nor does it adequately protect the health of people in Minamisoma. The people in Minamisoma have been advised to stay indoors or told they can leave on a voluntary basis. However, our measurements, which were taken between government monitoring points, show levels of contamination that indicate a risk to health and safety.

Our field monitoring team met with the Mayor of Minamisoma, Katsunobu Sakurai. He expressed his frustration, citing a lack of reliable information or clear advice from TEPCO and the authorities regarding risks this crisis poses to his community.

“TEPCO has been irresponsible. This was clearly demonstrated when it took 11 days for it to speak to us after the accident. The government has also not supplied us with any kind of report that we can understand,” said Sakurai. “We are asking the government to not only supply enough information about what has happened, but also that it guarantee that it will respond responsibly to possible future risks.”
Read the entire article and find more background here.