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NGOs Demand Olympic Authorities End Rainforest Destruction and Human Rights Abuses

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NGOs Demand Olympic Authorities End Rainforest Destruction and Human Rights Abuses Connected to Tokyo 2020 Olympics Construction

 

TOKYO/LIMA – Today, 47 civil society organizations delivered an open letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities, at the start of the IOC Executive Board Meeting in Lima, Peru. The letter reiterated grave and mounting concerns about the legitimacy and accountability of IOC sustainability commitments and the reputation and credibility of the iconic Olympic games. The letter criticizes the Olympics for knowingly exploiting tropical forests and potentially fueling human rights abuses in the construction and implementation of the games. The groups are calling for full transparency and an end to the use of rainforest wood to construct the Tokyo Olympic facilities, including the new National Olympic Stadium.

The signatory organizations, which include a broad cross section of NGOs with expertise in supply chain risks associated with environmental and human rights, are critical of the continued lack of transparency by Tokyo Olympic authorities.

“The Tokyo Olympic authorities are hiding the fact that they are using massive volumes of tropical wood to construct the new National Olympic Stadium. Without full transparency of the timber supply chain, claims to hosting a sustainable Olympics are completely baseless,” said Hana Heineken with Rainforest Action Network.

NGOs claim that the IOC’s failure to address the obvious risk of unsustainability is a clear breach of its own commitment to “include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games.” In particular, they point to a major loophole in the Tokyo 2020 procurement policy that allows wood used for concrete formwork to be exempted from the policy’s environmental, labor and human rights requirements, despite the majority of this type of wood in Japan coming from the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia where problems of illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and land rights violations persist.

On December 6 2016, 44 NGOs sent a letter to the IOC warning them of the high risk that illegal and unsustainable rainforest wood would be used to construct Tokyo’s new Olympic National Stadium and other related facilities. The groups warned that failure to adopt additional safeguards and due diligence measures at the outset of the construction could result in complicity with human rights abuses, illegal logging, and rainforest destruction. The letter offered evidence of high risk timber from Malaysia being used in Tokyo construction projects and argued that the Tokyo 2020 Timber Sourcing Code is ill-equipped to prevent the use of risky timber. Yet, not a single demand put forward in the letter has been met.

Today’s letter states that the new National Olympic Stadium is using significant volumes of rainforest wood as concrete formwork plywood. They point to evidence that tropical plywood supplied by a notorious Malaysian timber company called Shin Yang is being used, despite the company’s history of illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and human rights violations. While Tokyo Olympic authorities have defended their use of Shin Yang wood by claiming it is certified, the letter refutes claims to sustainability with evidence that Shin Yang’s certified wood is linked to human rights violations in Sarawak, Malaysia. The letter also states that the majority of wood being used for the Stadium as concrete formwork is in fact uncertified and very likely to have originated from the rainforests of Malaysia or Indonesia, which supplies most concrete formwork plywood used in Japan.

“Shin Yang’s certification is meaningless in the face of evidence from Indigenous representatives themselves that its logging practices are destroying Indigenous peoples’ traditional lands and livelihoods,” said Peg Putt, CEO of Markets For Change.

Tokyo 2020 authorities are in the midst of developing procurement standards for palm oil and pulp & paper, commodities that are major drivers of tropical deforestation. Given Japan’s significant consumption of rainforest-derived paper and growing consumption of palm oil, NGOs warn Olympic authorities to adopt robust social and environmental safeguards or face further criticism for fueling rainforest destruction, illegal logging and human rights violations.

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Resistance at Tule Lake (trailer)

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Resistance at Tule Lake (trailer) from Konrad Aderer on Vimeo.

RESISTANCE AT TULE LAKE tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the U.S. government’s program of mass incarceration during World War II. Branded as “disloyals” and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their U.S. citizenship.

The documentary premiered in February 2017, is continuing to screen at film festivals and other venues, and will be presented for national public television broadcast in May 2018.

For more information, visit resistanceattulelake.com

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Hiroshima – A Criminal Enterprise From Which Nothing Has Been Learned

NOVANEWS
By Felicity Arbuthnot 

When Paul Tibbets was thirteen years old he flew a bi-plane over Florida’s Miami Beach dropping a promotional cargo of Babe Ruth Candy Bars directly on to the promotional target area, in an advertising stunt. It was his first solo flight and: “From that moment he became hooked on flying.”

He became a test pilot and: “one of the first Americans to fly in world War Two.” Seventeen years later he had graduated from dropping Candy Bars to dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Thirty years later, the now retired Brigadier-General Paul Warfield Tibbets Junior (image right) told authors Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, for their minutely detailed and definitive book (1) on one of the world’s greatest crimes, of the background to the venture.  Most would surely conclude it was a criminal project from the start, on every level.

Tibbets told the authors:

“I got called on this bomb job … I was told I was going to destroy one city with one bomb. That was quite a thought … We had, working in my organization, a murderer, three men guilty of manslaughter and several felons; all of them had escaped from prison.

“The murderer was serving life; the manslaughter guys were doing ten to fifteen years; the felons three to five. After escaping they had enlisted under false names. They were all skilled technicians … They were all good, real good at their jobs and we needed ‘em. We told them that if they gave us no trouble, they would have no trouble from us.

“After it was over, we called each of them in and handed them their dossiers and a box of matches and said ‘Go burn ‘em.’ You see, I was not running a police department, I was running an outfit that was unique.”

The crime which the “oufit” committed was also unique, making the odd murder, manslaughter or felony on home soil pale in to insignificance in comparison.

In Hiroshima, a millisecond after 8.16 a.m., on 6th August 1945, the temperature at the core of the hundreds of feet wide fireball reached 50,000,000 degrees. Flesh burned two miles distant from it’s outer parameters.

80,000 people were killed or mortally injured instantly. The main area targeted was “the city’s principal residential, commercial and military quarters.”

The entrance to the Shima Clinic was flanked by great stone columns – “They were rammed straight down in to the ground.” The building was destroyed: “The occupants were vapourised.”

Just three of the city’s fifty five hospitals remained usable, one hundred and eighty of Hiroshima’s two hundred doctors were dead or injured and 1,654 of 1,780 nurses.

Sixty two thousand buildings were destroyed as all utilities and transportation systems. Just sixteen fire fighting vehicles remained workable.

People standing, walking, the schoolgirls manning the communications centre in Hiroshima Castle and ninety percent of the castle’s occupants, including American prisoners of war, were also vapourised. Gives a whole new meaning to the US military’s much vaunted “No soldier left behind.”

“The radiant heat set alight Radio Hiroshima, burnt out the tramcars, trucks, railway rolling stock.

“Stone walls, steel doors and asphalt pavement glowed red hot.” Clothing fused to skin. “More than a mile from the epicenter” mens’ caps fused to their scalps, womens’ kimonos to their bodies and childrens’ socks to their legs. All the above decimations happened in the time a crew member of the US bomber, “Enola Gay”, took to blink from the flash behind his goggles. What he saw when he opened them and looked down was, he said : “a peep in to hell.”

At home base, as Hiroshima was incinerated, a party was being prepared to welcome the arsonists. ”The biggest blow out” with free beer, all star soft ball game, a jitter bug contest, prizes, star attractions, a movie and the cooks working overtime to prepare a sumptuous fare.

Hiroshima’s destruction had a uranium-based detonation. Three days later on 9th August, Nagasaki was destroyed by a plutonium-based detonation to ascertain which would be the most “effective” in the new nuclear age warfare.

Not even a nod or thought had been given to the Hague Convention which had very specific legal guidelines to protection of civilians in war. One might speculate that Hiroshima also vapourised any pretention of such considerations for all time, in spite the subsequent Geneva Convention and it’s additional protocols.

In May this year, President Obama visited Hiroshima, he said (2): “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

Obama ended his Hiroshima address with: “Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

For a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a constitutional law expert, his words are especially cheap. The man who began his Presidency with a public commitment to build a nuclear weapons free world (speech in Czech Republic, 5th April 2009) has, mind bendingly, committed to a thirty year, one Trillion $ nuclear arsenal upgrade. (3)

The epitaph at Hiroshima was written by Tadayoshi Saika, Professor of English Literature at Hiroshima University. He also provided the English translation, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”

On November 3, 1983, an explanation plaque in English was added in order to convey Professor Saika’s intent that “we” refers to “all humanity”, not specifically the Japanese or Americans, and that the “error” is the “evil of war”:

“The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony … and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.” (Wikipedia.)

Did President Obama have a twinge of conscience as he read it? Or did he even bother? He is surely amongst the most unworthy of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. And will the rest of the world heed the words, the pledge and the spirit, before it is too late?

Notes

  1. Ruin From The Air, The Atomic Mission to Hiroshima: ISBN 0-586-06705-1
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/28/world/asia/text-of-president-obamas-speech-in-hiroshima-japan.html?_r=0
  3. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162279

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Hiroshima – A Criminal Enterprise From Which Nothing Has Been Learned

NOVANEWS
 

When Paul Tibbets was thirteen years old he flew a bi-plane over Florida’s Miami Beach dropping a promotional cargo of Babe Ruth Candy Bars directly on to the promotional target area, in an advertising stunt. It was his first solo flight and: “From that moment he became hooked on flying.”

He became a test pilot and: “one of the first Americans to fly in world War Two.” Seventeen years later he had graduated from dropping Candy Bars to dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Thirty years later, the now retired Brigadier-General Paul Warfield Tibbets Junior (image right) told authors Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, for their minutely detailed and definitive book (1) on one of the world’s greatest crimes, of the background to the venture.  Most would surely conclude it was a criminal project from the start, on every level.

Tibbets told the authors:

“I got called on this bomb job … I was told I was going to destroy one city with one bomb. That was quite a thought … We had, working in my organization, a murderer, three men guilty of manslaughter and several felons; all of them had escaped from prison.

“The murderer was serving life; the manslaughter guys were doing ten to fifteen years; the felons three to five. After escaping they had enlisted under false names. They were all skilled technicians … They were all good, real good at their jobs and we needed ‘em. We told them that if they gave us no trouble, they would have no trouble from us.

“After it was over, we called each of them in and handed them their dossiers and a box of matches and said ‘Go burn ‘em.’ You see, I was not running a police department, I was running an outfit that was unique.”

The crime which the “oufit” committed was also unique, making the odd murder, manslaughter or felony on home soil pale in to insignificance in comparison.

In Hiroshima, a millisecond after 8.16 a.m., on 6th August 1945, the temperature at the core of the hundreds of feet wide fireball reached 50,000,000 degrees. Flesh burned two miles distant from it’s outer parameters.

80,000 people were killed or mortally injured instantly. The main area targeted was “the city’s principal residential, commercial and military quarters.”

The entrance to the Shima Clinic was flanked by great stone columns – “They were rammed straight down in to the ground.” The building was destroyed: “The occupants were vapourised.”

Just three of the city’s fifty five hospitals remained usable, one hundred and eighty of Hiroshima’s two hundred doctors were dead or injured and 1,654 of 1,780 nurses.

Sixty two thousand buildings were destroyed as all utilities and transportation systems. Just sixteen fire fighting vehicles remained workable.

People standing, walking, the schoolgirls manning the communications centre in Hiroshima Castle and ninety percent of the castle’s occupants, including American prisoners of war, were also vapourised. Gives a whole new meaning to the US military’s much vaunted “No soldier left behind.”

“The radiant heat set alight Radio Hiroshima, burnt out the tramcars, trucks, railway rolling stock.

“Stone walls, steel doors and asphalt pavement glowed red hot.” Clothing fused to skin. “More than a mile from the epicenter” mens’ caps fused to their scalps, womens’ kimonos to their bodies and childrens’ socks to their legs. All the above decimations happened in the time a crew member of the US bomber, “Enola Gay”, took to blink from the flash behind his goggles. What he saw when he opened them and looked down was, he said : “a peep in to hell.”

At home base, as Hiroshima was incinerated, a party was being prepared to welcome the arsonists. ”The biggest blow out” with free beer, all star soft ball game, a jitter bug contest, prizes, star attractions, a movie and the cooks working overtime to prepare a sumptuous fare.

Hiroshima’s destruction had a uranium-based detonation. Three days later on 9th August, Nagasaki was destroyed by a plutonium-based detonation to ascertain which would be the most “effective” in the new nuclear age warfare.

Not even a nod or thought had been given to the Hague Convention which had very specific legal guidelines to protection of civilians in war. One might speculate that Hiroshima also vapourised any pretention of such considerations for all time, in spite the subsequent Geneva Convention and it’s additional protocols.

In May this year, President Obama visited Hiroshima, he said (2): “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

Obama ended his Hiroshima address with: “Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

For a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a constitutional law expert, his words are especially cheap. The man who began his Presidency with a public commitment to build a nuclear weapons free world (speech in Czech Republic, 5th April 2009) has, mind bendingly, committed to a thirty year, one Trillion $ nuclear arsenal upgrade. (3)

The epitaph at Hiroshima was written by Tadayoshi Saika, Professor of English Literature at Hiroshima University. He also provided the English translation, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”

On November 3, 1983, an explanation plaque in English was added in order to convey Professor Saika’s intent that “we” refers to “all humanity”, not specifically the Japanese or Americans, and that the “error” is the “evil of war”:

“The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony … and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.” (Wikipedia.)

Did President Obama have a twinge of conscience as he read it? Or did he even bother? He is surely amongst the most unworthy of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. And will the rest of the world heed the words, the pledge and the spirit, before it is too late?

Notes

  1. Ruin From The Air, The Atomic Mission to Hiroshima: ISBN 0-586-06705-1
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/28/world/asia/text-of-president-obamas-speech-in-hiroshima-japan.html?_r=0
  3. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162279

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Japan’s Conspiracy bill signals new threats to the anti-U.S. base movement

NOVANEWS

Japan’s Conspiracy bill signals new threats to the anti-U.S. base movement

The day after Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, successfully rammed through a controversial law, the Conspiracy bill, on June 15, the author arrived in Kyoto to represent the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan).

The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe. In every forum activists were deeply concerned and outraged by the Conspiracy bill. Despite the bill becoming law, people were determined to continue to resist it.

Conspiracy bill

The Conspiracy bill became law by using the rare tactic of bypassing committee-level approval. That is, skipping a vote in an upper house committee and moving directly to a vote in the full upper house. Critics fear the bill’s vague definition of terrorism poses a threat to citizens’ rights. The Abe government argues the Conspiracy bill is a necessary safeguard against terrorist attacks at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.

Many activists in Japan believe that the bill is a new offensive specifically aimed at peoples’ movements, such as the anti-U.S. base movement. For example, the bill criminalizes plans and preparations to commit 277 “serious crimes.” Such “crimes” include acts commonly used in the anti-base movement, like sit-ins to stop base-related construction projects. The bill therefore seems less about combating terrorism and more about legalizing the state’s use of terrorism against its own citizens.

In discussions with the author, activists in Japan were struck by the similarity between Abe’s Conspiracy bill and the way Republican-controlled states began taking steps to widen the legal definition of criminality after the election of Trump. In North Dakota, for example, under emergency provisions, laws were immediately enacted without debate to further criminalize peaceful, indigenous-led water protectors blocking the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

U.S.-Japanese Military Alliance

Abe’s Conspiracy bill comes at a time when the United States and Japan are ramping up their military alliance based largely on the lie that the DPRK and China pose an aggressive, offensive threat to the U.S. military bases in Japan, 75 percent of which are located about 400 miles south of Japan proper on Okinawa island.

The United States controlled Okinawa from 1945 until it was returned in 1972, not to the indigenous Okinawans, but to the Japanese government, as part of a non-nuclear proliferation treaty. Even though the United States no longer occupies the whole of Okinawa, the Security Treaty, signed in 1951 and revised in 1960, continues to give the United States access to Japan’s air and land space for military purposes in exchange for “protection.”

The U.S. government’s stated intention of maintaining a large and growing military presence in Japan beginning in 1952 was to serve as a “bulwark against communism.” Even after the Cold War, the U.S. military presence in Japan and the Asian Pacific has grown. Once the Soviet Union and much of the socialist bloc were eliminated, the last holdouts of anti-colonial, pan-Arab, independent, nationalism were targeted for regime change.

Through racism, sanctions and lies about weapons of mass destruction, the United States has brought massive destabilization to the region, including genocide, widespread terrorism, and open-air slave markets. The U.S. bases and military alliance with Japan made these war crimes possible.

Japan, after enacting a new series of war laws, sent war ships to the Gulf region in 2001 and 2003 to provide refueling support for U.S. aircraft during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution states, “the Japanese people forever renounce war” and that all means of “war potential, will never be maintained.”

In 2005-2006, the U.S.-Japanese military alliance was reinforced through a “realignment” plan that would more centrally integrate U.S. and Japanese military alliances. The goal is to transform the Japanese Self-Defense Forces into a ready-for-war army to be deployed, along with U.S. forces, anywhere in the world. The people’s movements in Japan have been resisting this plan for many years.

In 2012, Obama’s “rebalancing” strategy made dangerous strides toward realignment, leading to more cooperation between the United States and Japan in conducting joint military exercises or “war games” right outside of North Korea’s waters.

Most recently, the United States, Japan and the U.S.-controlled South Korean military coordinated a nuclear bomb-dropping drill right off of North Korea’s shores. When the author joined a rally in Kyoto on June 16, demonstrators expressed outrage that the UN Security Council would not consider this an act of provocation, but rather imposed further sanctions on the DPRK for their testing of an intermediate-range missile as a response to being threatened with nuclear annihilation.

The Abe government is currently moving aggressively to completely deregulate and unleash the Japanese Self-Defense Forces by amending the constitution. This process is likely to begin in the fall. Abe has boldly stated that Japan’s military forces need a legitimate position within Article 9.

Based on the energy and perseverance of the people’s movements in Japan steps taken to amend Article 9 will likely result in Abe’s approval rating to continue to fall. An indication of this was the Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, July 2, where Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party suffered a humiliating defeat. While this election does not necessarily mean the undoing of the Abe government, it does call into question Abe’s proposed timeline for reforming Japan’s pacifist Constitution by 2020.

As state policy moves further away from the peoples’ will, protests and demonstrations can be expected to rise. A seasoned politician, Abe surely knows this opposition is coming, and the Conspiracy bill must be understood within this context.

The anti-base movement

The United States has over 40,000 military personnel deployed at 83 permanent bases in Japan. In addition, the U.S.’s 7th Navy Fleet, with its homeport at the Yokosuka base, houses more than 13,000 troops afloat. With perhaps around 60,000 U.S. troops, Japan has been the number one host country for U.S. forces abroad since 2010.

While the anti-base movement in Japan is informed by the peoples’ demand for self-determination and the desire to regain control of their national territory, a number of related issues have also been central.

First, many people, especially in Okinawa where the bases are most heavily concentrated, consuming more than 20 percent of the land base, the bases themselves have disrupted and even devastated their social life. For example, many are outraged and disgusted by the sexual crimes U.S. soldiers commit against women and young girls near U.S. bases with near impunity.

The military activity and widespread use of dangerous chemicals on the bases have resulted in major environmental devastation. The construction of bases through expanding out into the ocean or in forested areas is another source of ecosystem devastation. One of the consequences of these and other activities has been high rates of cancer among communities in close proximity to bases and the military’s dumping grounds. The environmental destruction has also made life difficult for farmers and fisherman in places like Okinawa. Finally, the unimaginably debilitating noise pollution the bases mercilessly subject the people living around them to has led to decades of fierce resistance.

Okinawans have resisted U.S. military presence since the end of WWII and more recently, have blocked the construction of the Henoko base for 20 years. So organized and widespread is the Okinawan resistance that they successfully elected an anti-base governor in 2014, Takeshi Onaga.

In 2015, Onaga revoked the land reclamation permit needed to build the base on top of a fragile coral reef ecosystem. However, the Onaga-led Okinawans lost the case in the Supreme Court, and the central government quickly began building the seawalls for the Henoko base in late April amid massive protests and civil disobedience. The local activists have not given up on stopping the base from being built, noting that the sea walls have not destroyed the reef. The Conspiracy bill will surely be used against Okinawans in the coming realignment of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance.

Indigenous Okinawans, whose language and culture has been devastated by Japanese colonialism and current curricular genocide, and who have been terrorized by U.S. soldiers for nearly seven decades, will surely respond with indignation as the Abe government moves to further militarize the Self-Defense Forces.

Again, the Conspiracy bill will allow the Japanese government to more easily eliminate the anti-base movement by jailing its leadership and peaceful activists as terrorists.

People’s Resistance and Solidarity

As wealth is increasingly redistributed upward in both Japan and the United States through the slashing of social spending, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing military spending, only with international solidarity and the understanding of the power people already have can a new society of the people be realized.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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Free trade agreements and military deregulation in Japan

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Free trade agreements and military deregulation in Japan

The author represented the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan) from June 16-21, 2017. The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe.

Japan’s progressive movements tend to oppose the Japanese-U.S. military alliance codified within the 1951 Security Treaty. Revised in 1960, the treaty grants the U.S. open access to Japan’s air, land and sea territory for military purposes.

A dominant tendency within this movement acknowledges the role of U.S. imperialism within Japan’s armed forces, but argues the country has its own military and economic interests aside from the United States.

Because modern, late-stage capitalism is the product of European powers’ pivot to Africa for the slave trade and the pivot to Asian markets in the 1880s, the liberation of Asia and Africa from capitalism is central to the liberation of the whole planet from capitalism and imperialism.

While understanding Japan’s role as a junior imperialist power with the United States is significant for resisting U.S. imperialism, comprehending Japan’s independent economic and military interests are also important for anti-imperialist struggle. For example, the way Japan has responded to the Trump presidency withdrawing the United States from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an important development.

The TPP Puzzle

Many activists in Japan have expressed confusion regarding Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the TPP. That is, if the TPP was to be the U.S. capitalist class’s way of exploiting, tax-free, super oppressed labor in Asia Pacific created by decades of U.S. military intervention, then why would Trump back out? That is, why would the U.S. capitalist state decline another free trade agreement that would result in higher rates of profit for many multinational corporations? Many U.S. capitalists were in fact angry at Trump for ruining their projected TPP earnings.

While the answer includes a growing split within the U.S. capitalist class, and Trump’s uninformed turn to some type of racist economic protectionism, what is significant is the way the Japanese capitalist state apparatus has stepped in to assert its own independent interests. That is, with the United States out of the TPP picture, how is Japan moving forward? That is, the absence of the U.S. might mean more investment opportunities in the Asia Pacific, but perhaps less automobile exports that would have gone to the United States due to deregulated tariffs.

Japan’s FTAs

An FTA that had been in the works for years between Japan and the EU was just settled days before the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It has been argued that the timing of this deal with the G20 sent an intentional message to Trump. That is, it was a direct response to Trump’s protectionism and solution to lost automobile exports.

Again, the TPP was going to help Japan with falling exports. In 2016, for example, exports in Japan fell more than 11 percent. Rather than exporting more automobiles to the United States, Japan has successfully turned to the EU with the signing of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement signed July 6.

In exchange for lowering tariffs on Japanese automobiles, Tokyo has agreed to dramatically lower tariffs on meat and dairy products for EU producers. The National Pork Producers Council sees the writing on the wall since Japan has been the biggest export market for their products.

Despite its downturn in exports overall, Japan remains the leading supplier of commodities produced by advanced technology to East Asian countries. Japan’s 14 FTAs (with Australia, Brunei, Chile, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand and Vietnam) have played an important role. Japan is also currently negotiating FTAs with Canada, Colombia, South Korea, and one between Japan, South Korea and China.

Japan’s highly developed capitalist economy tends to suffer from falling profit rates. One counter-acting measure to counter the falling rate of profit is to increase the rate of exploitation (i.e., lower wages).

For example, in 2015, the primary labor law regulating the employment of part-time workers, the Worker Dispatch Act, was revised in the employers benefit. The length of time an employer can maintain an employee’s status as “temporary” is now unlimited.

As a result, the number of dispatch workers in Japan is growing. Around 40 percent of Japan’s workforce is temporary, with high rates of extreme exploitation. By laying out less in the form of wages, production costs are reduced and a little more flexibility exporting commodities is achieved on the backs of workers.

One outcome of this trend is that the number of families on public welfare assistance more than doubled in the last 20 years. More than 16 percent of children in Japan are living in poverty.

Another factor commonly used by the most developed capitalist economies to counter falling profit rates is to export not only goods or use values, but capital itself. For example, between 2015 and 2016, Japan’s investment in Indonesia doubled from roughly $400 million to $900 million.

Japan is also the worlds’ leading exporter of capital goods and the most advanced robotics, labor-saving technology. Such machines are exported from Japan and imported into Indonesia, South Korea and China, for example, to manufacture consumer goods for export.

The FTA between Japan and Indonesia, originally signed in 2008, has tended to favor the more powerful Japan. Throughout renegotiations of the FTA over the years, Indonesia has reduced obstacles for Japanese investment in Indonesia.

Deregulating Japan’s Military

Looking expansively beyond its borders, Japanese capitalists see China, the second-largest economy in the world, as a regional, economic competitor. For example, in 2013, after Beijing declared an Air Defense Identification Zone over the Senkaku islands and surrounding waters of the East China Sea, the Abe government intensified its anti-China position.

Whereas China claims “undisputed sovereignty” in the East China Sea, the United States and Japan side with the Philippines and Vietnam, who both assert sovereignty over the military use of the rocks and shoals as strategic positions in future struggles over economic regional control.

However, such militarist ambitions are difficult to realize with a pacifist Constitution. In 2005-2006, the U.S.-Japanese military alliance was reinforced through a “realignment” plan that would more centrally integrate U.S. and Japanese military alliances. The goal is to transform the Japanese Self-Defense Forces into a ready-for-war army to be deployed, along with U.S. forces, anywhere in the world.

Growing Opposition

The Japanese capitalist class interests in deregulating the military stands in direct opposition to the people of Japan who tend to support the pacifist Constitution and avoiding the horrors of war (especially those that the U.S. military brought to Japan with the use of the worlds’ first and only major nuclear attack). Many people in Japan see their pacifist Constitution as a great advance for humankind and democracy.

Attempting to counter the strong public opposition to the remilitarization of Japan, the Abe government has employed an intense nationalistic propaganda campaign, including patriotic education and using racism to justify the current aggression toward the DPRK and to glorify Japan’s past colonialist occupation of Korea. However, despite these efforts, steps taken to amend Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution will likely result in the continuing fall of Abe’s approval rating.

An indication of this was the Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, July 2, 2017, where Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party suffered a humiliating defeat. While this election does not necessarily mean the undoing of the Abe government, it does call into question Abe’s proposed timeline for reforming Japan’s pacifist Constitution by 2020.

For the faction of Japan’s capitalist class that Prime Minister Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party represent, Article 9 is a barrier to its militaristic ambitions.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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Struggling against imperialism, refusing to forget “comfort women”

NOVANEWS

Struggling against imperialism, refusing to forget “comfort women”

A former “comfort woman” from South Korea joins a protest outside of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., in July 2015, demanding justice for Japan’s war crimes during World War II. Photo: Sarah Sloan.

The author represented the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan) from June 16-21, 2017. The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe.

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a highly unpopular imperialist agenda that has been coupled with an ideological turn to nationalist chauvinism in a feeble attempt to popularize its bigoted, militarizing, capitalist pursuits. For many activists in Japan, the election of Trump reflects the same ruling-class trend of reactionary scapegoating to maintain the stability of the system as living standards decline.

Demonizing North Korea

Mobilizing support for Abe’s desire to transform Japan’s military into a completely deregulated ready-for-war army has been a major focus of his administration. The Japanese capitalist class’s move to revise its pacifist Constitution is justified in part by the supposed threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). However, North Korea has done nothing but pursued a military deterrent against external threats since the United States and Japan have rejected its requests for a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War.

Since the DPRK does not really pose an offensive threat to Japan, South Korea or the United States, a more plausible explanation for Japan’s re-militarization is its desire to secure economic interests against such rivals as China in the Asia Pacific region and elsewhere. Working to secure popular support for Japan’s shift toward militarization, Abe has glorified Japan’s pre-WWII imperialist government.

Abe has therefore moved to suppress statements in Japanese history books that reflect the extremely high human costs of imperialism. This way Japanese youth, just like in the United States, are socialized with a form of romanticized blind patriotism.

Forgetting about “comfort women”

A serious issue that really shows the barbarity of imperialism is the enslavement of girls and women during WWII who were forced into prostitution. Abe has moved to erase this grave injustice from the history books. Hundreds of thousands of women in 11 countries, including Korea and the Philippines, were forced into a form of state-sponsored slavery by the Japanese military. This horrible consequence of colonialist domination constitutes a war crime.

Revealing how important the Abe government believes it is to hide the horrors of imperialism, in 2014 Japan’s Foreign Ministry told the Japanese Consulate in New York to ask a major textbook publisher, McGraw-Hill, to alter passages on “comfort women” in one of their textbooks. Even though Japan’s Foreign Ministry was not successful, it demonstrates their dedication to portraying its imperial past in a positive light.

Outrageously, the official position of the Abe government is that there is no concrete evidence that women were forced against their will by the Imperial Japanese Army into brothels.

The struggle for justice for “comfort women”

As the movement for justice for enslaved “comfort women” has demanded that Japan offer, at the very least, a formal apology, Abe has repeatedly refused to offer one that takes responsibility of the role of the Japanese state. While Abe offered an apology in the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea that acknowledges that an injustice occurred, it does not place blame on the Imperial Japanese Army.

At a news conference in 2016 in Tokyo, former comfort women from East Timor, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Korean Peninsula spoke of the horrors they faced at the hands of the Imperial Japanese soldiers. They argued that the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea was not sufficient for many reasons, including the fact that it does not represent women from all 11 countries where Japan enslaved women and young girls during World War II.

Activists throughout the Asia Pacific and the United States, including remaining survivors, continue to agitate for justice for women forced into enslavement as so-called comfort women. Their demands include having the Japanese government offer a public apology and financial compensation to all victims in all countries, and making sure history textbooks in Japan include the true history of this injustice.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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Japan Plans to Expose Its People and 2020 Tokyo Olympians to Fukushima Radiation

NOVANEWS
 
Featured image: Contaminated earth storage area within the Iitate Village evacuated zone, December 2014. Photo: Eric Schultz / EELV Fukushima via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 US atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling,” Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.

He explains that both the Japanese government and the atomic power industry are trying to force almost all of the people who evacuated their homes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to return “home” before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This March Japan’s federal government announced the subsidies that have, up until now, been provided to Fukushima evacuees who were mandated to leave their homes are being withdrawn, which will force many of them to return to their contaminated prefecture out of financial necessity.

And it’s not just the Japanese government. The International Olympic Commission is working overtime to normalize the situation as well, even though conditions at Fukushima are anything but normal. The commission even has plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to have baseball and softball games played at Fukushima.

Gundersen believes these developments are happening so that the pro-nuclear Japanese government can claim the Fukushima disaster is “over.” However, he note,

“The disaster is not ‘over’ and ‘home’ no longer is habitable.”

His analysis of what is happening is simple.

“Big banks and large electric utilities and energy companies are putting profit before public health,” Gundersen added. “Luckily, my two young grandsons live in the US; if their parents lived instead in Fukushima Prefecture [a prefecture is similar to a state in the US], I would tell them to leave and never go back.”

Reports of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began when a tsunami generated by Japan’s deadly earthquake in 2011 struck the nuclear plant, have been ongoing.

Seven more people who used to live in Fukushima, Japan were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the government announced in June. This brings the number of cases of thyroid cancer of those living in the prefecture at the time the disaster began to at least 152.

Arnie Gundersen

While the Japanese government continues to deny any correlation between these cases and the Fukushima disaster, thyroid cancer has long since been known to be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear accidents like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A World Health Organization report released after the disaster started listed cancer as a possible result of the meltdown, and a 2015 study in the journal Epidemiology suggested that children exposed to Fukushima radiation were likely to develop thyroid cancer more frequently.

The 2011 disaster left 310 square miles around the plant uninhabitable, and the area’s 160,000 residents were evacuated. This April, officials began welcoming some of them back to their homes, but more than half of the evacuees in a nearby town have already said they would not return to their homes even if evacuation orders were lifted, according to a 2016 government survey.

Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for cleaning up the disaster, announced this February they were having difficulty locating nuclear fuel debris inside one of the reactors. Radiation inside the plant continues to skyrocket to the point of causing even robots to malfunction.

Cancer cases continue to crop up among children living in towns near Fukushima.

And it’s not as if the danger is decreasing. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Earlier this year, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were at their highest levels since the disaster began.

TEPCO said atmospheric readings of 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded in one of the reactors. The previous highest reading was 73 sieverts an hour back in 2012. A single dose of just one Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea. Five sieverts would kill half of those exposed within one month, and a dose of 10 sieverts would be fatal to those exposed within weeks.

Dr. Tadahiro Katsuta, an associate professor at Meiji University, Japan, is an official member of the Nuclear Reactor Safety Examination Committee and the Nuclear Fuel Safety Examination Committee of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Truthout asked him what he was most concerned about regarding the Japanese government’s handling of the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

“What I regard as the most dangerous, personally, is the fact that the Japanese government has chosen the national prestige and protection of electric power companies over the lives of its own citizens,” Katsuta, who wrote the Fukushima update for the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, said.

Gundersen thinks it simply makes no sense to hold the Olympics in Japan.

“Holding the 2020 Olympics in Japan is an effort by the current Japanese government to make these ongoing atomic reactor meltdowns disappear from the public eye,” Gundersen said. “I discovered highly radioactive dust on Tokyo street corners in 2016.”

According to Gundersen and other nuclear experts Truthout spoke with, the crisis is even worse.

Fukushima and Surrounding Prefectures Radioactively “Contaminated”

“The Japanese government never dedicated enough resources to trying to contain the radiation released by the meltdowns,” Gundersen said.

Gundersen said that during his first trip to Japan in 2012, he stated publicly that the cleanup of Fukushima would cost more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, and TEPCO scoffed at his estimate. But now in 2017, TEPCO has reached and announced the same conclusion, but as a result of its inaction in 2011 and 2012, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful mountain ranges in Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are contaminated.

One of the tactics that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe‘s administration chose to deploy at Fukushima to contain radiation was an underground “ice wall.”

“As the ‘ice wall’ was being designed, I spoke out that it was doomed to fail, and was [an] incredibly expensive diversion,” Gundersen said. “There are techniques that could stop water from entering the basements of the destroyed reactors so that the radioactivity would not migrate through the groundwater to the ocean, but the Japanese government continues to resist pursuing them.”

Gundersen argues that Japan could and should build a sarcophagus over all three destroyed reactors and wait 100 years to dismantle them. This way, the radioactive exposure will be minimized for Japanese workers, and ongoing radioactive releases to the environment would be minimized as well.

Gundersen also points out that it is equally important that radioactive water continues to run out of the mountain streams into the Pacific, so a thorough cleanup of the mountain ranges should begin right now, but that is a mammoth undertaking that may never succeed.

IAEA experts depart Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan’s plans to decommission the facility. (Source: Greg Webb / IAEA / Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to his other roles, Arnie Gundersen serves as the chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded by his wife Maggie. Since founding the organization, Maggie Gundersen has provided paralegal and expert witness services for Fairewinds. Like her husband, she’s had an inside view of the nuclear industry: She was an engineering assistant in reload core design for the nuclear vendor Combustion Engineering, and she was in charge of PR for a proposed nuclear reactor site in upstate New York.

When Truthout asked her how she felt about the Abe government’s response to Fukushima, she said,

“Human health is not a commodity that should be traded for corporate profits or the goals of politicians and those in power as is happening in Japan. The Japanese government is refusing to release accurate health data and is threatening to take away hospital privileges from doctors who diagnose radiation symptoms.”

Maggie Gundersen added that her husband also met with a doctor who lost his clinic because he was diagnosing people with radiation sickness, instead of complying with the government’s story that their illnesses were due to the psychological stress of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and is also a contributing author to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report for 2016. Like the Gundersens, he is critical of the Abe administration’s mishandling of Fukushima.

“I am not sure we can expect much better from the Abe administration that has shown so little regard for people’s welfare in general and has supported the nuclear industry in the face of clear and widespread opposition,” Ramana told Truthout. “As with restarting nuclear power plants, one reason for this decision seems to be to reduce the liability of the nuclear industry, TEPCO in this case. It is also a way for the Abe administration to shore up Japan’s image, as a desirable destination for the Olympics and more generally.”

Katsuta agreed.

“Prime Minister Abe has neither the knowledge about the issue of Fukushima accident nor the interest at all,” Katsuta said. “The Abe administration has yet to clearly apologize for its responsibility for promoting the nuclear energy policy.”

Instead, according to Katsuta, the Abe administration has lifted evacuation orders in an effort to “erase the memories of the accident.”

Fukushima Evacuees “Forced” Back Home

In the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, 160,000 people fled areas around the plant. The Abe government has been providing housing subsidies to those who were evacuated, but its recent announcement means those subsidies will no longer be provided. Many “voluntary evacuees” will be forced to consider returning despite lingering concerns over radiation.

“This is very unfortunate,” Ramana said of the withdrawal of the subsidies. “The people who were evacuated from Fukushima have already been through a lot and for some of them to be told that the government, and presumably TEPCO, does not have any more liability for their plight seems quite callous.”

He explains that, in enacting this callous move, the Japanese government is claiming that radiation exposure is now within “safe levels” for people to return home. This claim ignores the fact that levels now are even higher than before the accident, and also disregards the widespread uncertainties plaguing the measurement of radiation in the affected areas.

Katsuta expressed similar concerns.

“The lifted evacuation area has not been restored completely, as the radiation dose is still high, and decontamination of the forest is excluded,” he said. “Besides, the decontamination waste is often stored in the neighborhood, and there were many families who did not return, and then the local community collapsed.”

Katsuta added that the subsidies only amount to $1,000 per refugee, so paying them for the next 10 years is “not expensive” in order to safeguard human lives.

Given her work in PR for the nuclear industry, Maggie Gundersen had an interesting position on the Abe government’s tactics.

When she was working for the atomic power industry, she was “carefully taught” certain misinformation about atomic power reactors by industry scientists and engineers. She said she would never have done that work if she had known the “hidden truth.” She and Arnie were both taught that atomic power was the “peaceful use of the atom” — she does not support war and believes that the use of atomic weapons or depleted uranium are horrific crimes — and she explains that she never would have worked for or promoted atomic power knowing what she knows now.

“Arnie and I immediately noticed that TEPCO and the Japanese government were using the same playbook that was used at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and for that matter, Deepwater Horizon),” Maggie Gundersen explained. “Governments immediately minimize the amount of radiation being released, or in the case of Deepwater Horizon, the amount of oil.”

She added that in each of these cases, the mainstream press dutifully reported shortly after the crisis that there was nothing to fear, even though there was no evidence to support these assertions. The governments’ objectives were to minimize fear and chaos, and most media simply echoed officials’ claims. The responses to the Fukushima disaster are following the same pattern.

“Is the Abe regime glossing over the seriousness of the Fukushima meltdowns and ongoing radioactivity? Absolutely,” she said. “What is happening in Japan to the known and unknown victims is a human rights violation and an environmental justice debacle.”

2020 Tokyo Olympics to Be Held Amidst “Hot Particles”

Katsuta said that the Fukushima evacuees are “extremely worried” that their plight will be overshadowed by the Olympics. He believes the Japanese government is using the Olympics to demonstrate to the world that Japan is now a “safe” country and that the Fukushima disaster “has been solved.”

“In Japan, the people are really forgetting the Fukushima accident as … the news of the Olympics increases,” he said.

Arnie Gundersen doesn’t think it makes sense to have some of the Olympic venues (soccer, baseball and possibly surfing) in Fukushima Prefecture itself.

“Radioactively ‘hot particles’ are everywhere in Fukushima Prefecture and in some of the adjacent prefectures as well,” he said. “These ‘hot particles’ present a long-term health risk to the citizens who live there and the athletes who will visit.”

Ramana, too, believes that the events held closer to Fukushima “may be adding to the radiation dose of the competitors and the spectators.”

Fukushima Disaster “Will Continue for More Than 100 Years”

Maggie Gundersen pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission consistently claims it has learned lessons from Fukushima, but she doesn’t think the commission — or the Japanese government, or corporations — learned any lessons at all.

“Energy production is all about money,” she said. “After the meltdowns, many banks in Japan invested in keeping the atomic power reactors on hold until the disaster could sort itself out. Those banks and the government supporting its access to the use of the atom have a vested interest in starting the old reactors up.”

Katsuta has a dire outlook for the future of Fukushima, and said there are already numerous evacuees who have given up hope of returning because they are aware of the crisis being unsolvable by the current means of TEPCO and the Abe administration.

“Even if decontamination and decommissioning work progresses, the problem will not be solved,” he said. “We have not yet decided how to dispose of decontamination waste and decommissioning waste.”

Ramana believes Fukushima should be a reminder of the inherent hazards associated with nuclear power, and how those hazards become worse when entities that control these technologies put profits over human wellbeing.

Arnie Gundersen had even stronger words.

“The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi will continue for more than 100 years,” he explained. “Other atomic power reactor disasters are bound to occur. Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi should have taught everyone around the world that nuclear power is a technology that can destroy the fabric of a society overnight.”

According to him, the remains of the reactor containments at Units 1, 2 and 3 are highly susceptible to damage from another severe earthquake, and any earthquake of 7.0 or higher at the Fukushima site could provoke further severe radiation releases.

Shortly after the meltdowns, Maggie and Arnie Gundersen both spoke about Japan being at a “tipping point”: It could respond to the disaster by leading the world in renewable energy while choosing to protect people and the pristine rural environment through sustainable energy economies.

But obviously it didn’t work out that way.

“The world saw Japan as technologically savvy, but instead of moving ahead and creating a new worldwide economy, it continues with an old tired 20th century paradigm of energy production,” Maggie Gundersen said. “Look at the huge success and progress of solar and wind in other countries like Germany, Nicaragua and Denmark. Why not go energy independent, creating a strong economy, producing many more jobs and protecting the environment?”

Arnie Gundersen has plans to return to Japan later this year on a crowdsourced trip with scientific colleagues in order to teach Japanese citizen scientists how to take additional radioactive samples. Fairewinds Energy Education is currently fundraising to make this possible.

In the meantime, dramatic examples of the ongoing dangers of nuclear power in Japan abound.

In June, radioactive materials were found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident at a nuclear research facility in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture. In that incident, one of the workers had a large amount of plutonium in his lungs.

Recent polls in Japan show that the Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority of them favor phasing out nuclear power altogether.

Meanwhile in the US, President Donald Trump has put nuclear energy first on the country’s energy agenda and has announced a comprehensive study of the US nuclear energy industry. Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry said,

“We want to make nuclear cool again.”

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Japan wants US parachute drills grounded amid Okinawa anger

NOVANEWS

Image result for Japan FLAG

Japan is opposed to a two-day parachuting drill that the US plans to conduct near the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Local residents have protested such drills in the past, and this would be the third in two months.

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said the US military failed to notify the Japanese authorities seven days ahead of the exercise, as they are supposed to. In fact, Japan learned of the Americans’ plans from a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) filed with the aviation authorities, which is meant to keep civilian aircraft out of airspace where US military planes are flying during the exercise, NHK reported.

“We asked [the Americans] not to conduct the training and to delete the NOTAM. So far we have not received a response from the US site,” Inada told reporters on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting.

The parachuting exercises, which are planned for Wednesday and Thursday, would be conducted off the coast of the city of Uruma. Similar drills were conducted off the Kadena Airbase on the night of May 10 and on April 24.

The previous two drills sparked protest among Okinawans, who have not seen such exercises since 2011. After the second training, Deputy Okinawa Governor Moritake Tomikawa filed a protest with Japan’s Defense Ministry, expressing outrage and saying that such exercises cannot become routine.

Defense Minister Inada called the US move “regrettable,” saying the US should observe a 1996 bilateral agreement under which parachuting exercises should be conducted on the remote island of Iejima, off Okinawa’s main island, with the Kadena base used only as an exception.

“The United States did not offer sufficient explanation on why the exercise conducted (Wednesday) amounted to an exceptional case,” Inada said at a regular news conference. “It is extremely deplorable that it took place at Kadena Air Base without Japan and the United States able to share the same perception in advance,” she stressed.

The Kadena Airbase is one of several US military installations on Okinawa, a southern Japanese island that hosts some 70 percent of the US troops in Japan and is home to some 20,000 US service members, contractors, and their families.

During a parachuting drill in 1965, a trailer airdropped into a local village inadvertently landed on a schoolgirl, killing her.

The protest over the latest planned drill comes a day after Okinawa police arrested a US airman assigned to the Kadena base following a drunk hit-and-run. Staff Sergeant Miguel Angel Garza allegedly hit a car on Monday and fled the scene. The female driver of the second vehicle sustained minor injuries, Japanese authorities said.

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Thousands of Japanese rally in capital against ‘anti-terror’ bill

NOVANEWS

People demonstrate against a piece of “anti-terror” legislation in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, May 24, 2017.
Press TV 

Thousands of people have held a protest rally in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, to express their dissent against the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for putting forward a controversial “anti-terror” bill.

Demonstrators, carrying placards, flooded the capital’s streets on Wednesday evening. They said the government would be prosecuting practically everybody in the name of fighting terrorism if the bill was passed.

The protest came a day after the country’s lower house approved the “conspiracy bill,” which enlisted 277 new types of offences deemed by the lawmakers as threats against Japanese national security.

The government argues that with the help of the bill, if it is passed, it will be able to mount a crackdown on what it calls organized crime and punish those who plan to carry out “serious crimes” against the country.

The bill now needs to be ratified by the upper house, the House of Councilors — where Abe’s coalition has the upper hand — to become law.

While Tokyo argues that the legislation should be adopted before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 in an attempt to battle terrorism and organized crime, the opponents of the bill say they fear it would treat such offenses as sit-in demonstrations and violations of copyrights as “serious crimes.”

The government further argues that the law would be necessary to ratify the United Nations (UN)’s Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The demonstrators in the Wednesday rally also protested against a number of other issues, including Japan’s nuclear power policies and the United States’ presence on the Japanese Okinawa Island.

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