Monday, September 19, 2011

Changing faces with a smile - Talita

Well shipmates, I hope you are all well. Many things have I read and seen and experienced that almost made me come out of blog retirement and perhaps I shall get around to sharing them too. But this is the one that did it.
You are in for a treat. What you are going to see is nothing less than the beauty of the world.

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

For more info about 'Operation Smile' or if you would like to make a donation click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Petition to save the Fukushima children

I discovered this at Japan Nuclear Crisis Blog. (See post 26th April)
Urgent Petition Against 20 millisieverts per year (mSv/y) Radiation Exposure onto Children in Fukushima
Preliminary deadline: Tue. April 26, 2011 at 23:00 in Japanese time (UTC/GMT +9 hours)
Final deadline: Sat. April 30, 2011 at 23:00 in Japanese time (UTC/GMT +9 hours)

We urgently demand the withdrawal of the Japanese Government's inhumane decision to force 20 millisieverts per year (mSv/y) radiation exposure onto children.

On April 19th, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) notified the Board of Education and related institutions in Fukushima Prefecture the level of 20 millisieverts per year (mSv/y) as a Radiation Safety Standard for schools in Fukushima Prefecture. This is the standard to be used for school grounds and buildings. The Government has indicated that 20mSv/y is equivalent to 3.8microSv per hour measured outdoors.

3.8 micro Sv/h is roughly 6 times [the 0.6microSv/h] of "Radiation Controlled Areas" (0.6 microSv/h or more). The Labour Standards Act prohibits those under the age of 18 from working under these conditions. Forcing children to be exposed to such radiation doses is an exceedingly inhumane decision. Therefore, we condemn this in the strongest terms.

20 mSv/y is comparable to the [legally] recognized dose for inducing leukemia in nuclear power plant workers. It is also comparable to the maximum dose allowed for nuclear power plant workers in Germany.

In addition, this 20mSv standard [for Japanese children] does not take into account the fact children have higher sensitivity to radiation than adults, nor does it take into account any internal radiation exposure.

Currently, according to the radiation monitoring conducted at elementary and middle schools within Fukushima Prefecture, more than 75% of these schools have contamination levels comparable to "Radiation Controlled Areas" (0.6 micro Sv/h or more). Further, roughly 20% of the schools fall within "IndividualExposure Controlled Areas" (2.3 microSv/h or more) and are in an extremely dangerous situation.

The level set by the Japanese Government at this time amounts to coercion of this dangerous situation upon children, and, can interfere with voluntary measures by schools to minimize exposure.

MEXT states that 20mSv/y is based on the recommendation Pub.109 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) as well as on the reference levels in the band of 1 to 20 mSv/y as "Post Emergency Situation" Standards from the ICRP statement released on March 21st. The latter means MEXT has adopted the maximum level.

As of March 21st, there has been no substantive information disclosure by the Japanese Government on the decision-making process for establishing these standards. Moreover, no explanation has been given concerning why the Government has neither taken the sensitivity of children into consideration nor internal radiation exposure into account. The contents of the consultation held between MEXT and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) are not disclosed, and the situation remains extremely opaque.

We demand the Japanese government of the following:
Retraction of the "20mSv/y" standard for children.
Disclosure of the names of experts, who deemed "20mSv/y" for children to be safe.
Note: At the governmental negotiation held on April 21st, it became evident that the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) concluded the 20mSv/y standard for children as "Permissible" without undertaking any formal consultation. Moreover, on April 22nd, the Commission reported to the office of Mizuho FUKUSHIMA, member of the Japanese Diet, House of Councillors that no minutes (records) exist of the 5 Nuclear Safety Commission members' deliberation leading to the 20mSv/year standard.

Expert comments cited from the articles on the establishment of the 20mSv/y standard ("Fukushima-Katastrophe - Japan legt hohe Strahlengrenzwerte fur Kinder fest" or "Japan's MEXT sets High Exposure Limits for Children"), Der Spiegel, April 21st, 2011.(See comparison to German workers.),1518,758410,00.html

Edmund Lengfelder (Otto Hug Radiation Institute), "The cancer risk will visibly rise in the future. By setting these standards, the government will steer
clear of any liability legally, however not morally."


This petition is being organized by: Green Action, Greenpeace Japan, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai), Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi, and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants (Mihama-no-Kai), Friends of the Earth Japan

For further inquiries, please contact:

Green Action
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223

Friends of the Earth Japan
3-30-8-1F Ikebukuro Toshima-ku Tokyo 171-0014, Japan
TEL: +81-3-6907-7217

[English translation of Japanese original: FoE Japan / Green Action]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The 50 at Fukushima Daiichi

Some days ago I read that TEPCO was withdrawing all its personnel from its stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, all except for 50 who were to remain to fight the overheating reactors. The word ‘heroes’ immediately came into my mind along with memories of those heroic doomed Russian helicopter pilots who dumped load after load of concrete on radioactive Chernobyl. 
A few days ago the word ‘heroes’ was not being used in the media because it looked like the danger was small and that the problem would be contained. Not anymore.

[7:06 a.m. ET Wednesday, 8:06 p.m.  in Tokyo] The number of nuclear workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was slashed Tuesday from 800 to 50, but had grown to 180 by Wednesday afternoon, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said.
"Their situation is not great," said David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University. "It's pretty clear that they will be getting very high doses of radiation. There's certainly the potential for lethal doses of radiation. They know it, and I think you have to call these people heroes." (from ‘This just in’ WSJ Blog)

Strangely, as I was writing this, an article at the WSJ site about the 180 heroes suddenly disappeared. I suppose it was pulled because it painted too heroic and desperate a picture of events out of control, or at least not going to plan. In it there were quotes from nuclear experts about the specialized knowledge of these 50 who, precisely because of their knowledge, knew exactly what risks they were taking and therefore were true heroes. They were doing what they considered to be their job and more importantly their duty to protect their endangered nation. I remember one commentator saying they were in ‘uncharted territory’ and likened events to an adventure movie where the workers were ‘ad libing’ as they went along. For example, using fire trucks to pump seawater into the reactors to cool them ‘was not in the manual’.

There is no lack of examples of courage and duty in Japanese history. Indeed such heroic courage and devotion to duty are a large part of the samurai code that is deeply ingrained even today in the Japanese psyche. Akira Kurosawa gave us the quintessential legend of the 7 samurai; history gives us the 47 Ronin. Today’s events give us those who will become known forever as the 50 at Fukushima Daiichi.

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.  Japanese Proverb

Monday, March 14, 2011


What terrible, terrible times for the Japanese. My heart goes out to them.
I stumbled on Midoharu’s Youtube channel recently. Midoharu is a beautifully cute Japanese girl whose mother lovingly captures all her endearing antics. This week, after watching the shocking videos coming out of my beloved Japan, her videos seem all the more poignant.

Today mother posted this latest video. What do you do when the sky is falling and your heart is black? You could look at the children.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bill Gross: America requires more than a makeover or a facelift. It needs a heart transplant

Bill Gross dons armour and sword  again and cuts a bloody swathe through the rotten financial and political system of America. We like Bill Gross.

Fifty years ago, the highest paid and most prestigious professions were that of a doctor or a 707 airline pilot who flew the “golden” route from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Today the yellow brick road begins on Wall Street or the City. Aside from supernova innovators such as Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, the money is made from securitizing things instead of booting and rebuilding America. The tallest buildings in almost every major city are banks, with tens of thousands of people shuffling and trading paper for a living. One of this country’s premier investment banks paid each of its 26,000 employees an average of $370,000 in 2010, nearly ten times the take-home pay of other American workers. Almost a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people on Forbes annual richest list make their money from money, whereas only 8% could make that claim in its first issue in 1982, and probably close to 0% when I first read my economic primer in 1966.

Financiers have lost their high ground and, if truth be told, we began to lose it a long time ago when we figured out that money was more than a medium of exchange or a poor substitute for a store of value. We figured out a turbocharged way to make money with money and proclaimed ourselves geniuses in the process. Well, we’re not. We may be categorized as “opportunists,” to be generous, but society’s “paragons” and a legitimate destination for a significant percentage of college graduates? Hardly.

This country desperately requires a rebalancing of priorities. After readjusting the compensation scales via regulation and/or free market common sense, America needs to anoint a new set of Mensans who can create something more than a cash machine and make this country competitive again in the global marketplace. We need to find a new economic Keynes or at least elect a chastened Congress that can take our structurally unemployed and give them a chance to be productive workers again. We must have a President whose idea of “centrist” policy is not to hand out presents to the right and the left and then altruistically proclaim the benefits of bipartisanship. We need a President who does more than propose “Win The Future” at annual State of the Union addresses without policy follow-up. America requires more than a makeover or a facelift. It needs a heart transplant absent the contagious antibodies of money and finance filtering through the system. It needs a Congress that cannot be bought and sold by lobbyists on K Street, whose pockets in turn are stuffed with corporate and special interest group payola. Are record corporate profits a fair price for America’s soul? A devil’s bargain more than likely.

Read the full article.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup

I have just finished watching Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup  which raises disturbing questions about the truth of the story of what happened on that day. I was already aware that the 3 Trade Centre buildings could only have collapsed as they did by controlled demolition after viewing a video a couple of years ago by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Loose Change elaborates on that and introduces many other strange facts. We now know for example that explosive material has been identified in the dust collected from the falling towers.  Also that no identifiable plane wreckage (or human remains) has ever been found at the alleged crash sites of American Airlines flight 77 at the Pentagon and United Airlines flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, something that has no precedent in aviation history.
The implications and conclusions that can be drawn are truly disturbing and you owe it to yourself to get informed and be aware of what has happened, what is happening and what may happen again. If enough people demand to know the truth behind 9/11 perhaps we can avoid a future 9/11 event and the war it leads to.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Things which will make me go back to Japan

The introduction to Werner Bischof’s ‘Japan’, which was the subject of my last post, is written by Robert Guillain who is described as the Far East correspondent of Le Monde. It is a fitting, poetic introduction to Bischof’s extraordinary photos. I particularly liked a section where he describes ‘Things which will make me go back to Japan’. Reading them, I realised that I do not have a list of ‘Things which will make me go back to England’. Having a Lithuanian father and English mother has smudged that feeling of belonging to one place. I feel more empathy reading Guillain’s list as any I might make for another place…  Here are a few things from his list that resonate with me:

I will go back – to put it at its lowest – to see Japan without the Japanese, that is for the sake of the country’s very individual local colour; for the astonishment of seeing the originals of those images of nature that the deft brushes of the Nipponese artists have painted on silk; for the pine-tree with its twisted branches, the flight of the wild geese over Tokyo bay, and the thatched villages in the misty valley at the foot of Fujiyama; for the blending of mountain and sea, and to watch the smoking volcanoes; for an island off Tokyo, which is a basket of red camellias floating on the edge of the Pacific…
I will go back to enjoy the strange Japanese way of life. The nudity of its comfort, its simplification of existence and its search for contentment in frugality and closeness to nature…
I will go back for the sake of the children, who are like live dolls; for the girls with their laughter, their Mongol eyelids, their brilliant black hair, their bare feet in wooden sandals and the pure metal of their hearts ensheathed in softness; for Japanese women, who seem to belong to a race different from that of the men, and are the country’s finest achievement…
I will go back to assure myself that the West can learn certain lessons from the East; I will go back, so that Japan may teach me the refinements of the artistic sense and the gift of communing intensely with the mystery of nature; to reacquire from the Japanese that respect for the past, and the people of the past, that we Westerners have lost; to confirm that no-one knows what politeness is until he has experienced Japanese politeness.

Image by Mattias

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Werner Bischof’s 'Japan'

I came across this photograph (click, gets big) quite haphazardly looking through the posters in a now defunct frame shop around 1998. I bought the poster and framed it and it has decorated my home ever since and will always have a place there as long as I live.
It was taken by Werner Bischof in 1952. To me it is a very powerful statement of the beauty of the visible in Japanese architecture and of the invisible in the Japanese soul. Is there a better example of architecture in perfect harmony with nature? And the photographer has perhaps instinctively so framed the photograph to enhance this harmony. See how the lines of the upper roof are a mirror image of the lines of the branch that reaches out to it. I never tire of contemplating this image and the period that it evokes so eloquently and wondering why I feel such affinity.
I had never heard of Werner Bischof so I searched on the web and found the book the photo came from (‘Japan’ Werner Bischof, Simon and Schuster, 1954) and I ordered it from a rare book dealer. When it arrived I was taken aback to read this beginning to the author’s profile:

This is a book the author will never see.
Werner Bischof finished his work on it in New York in February, 1954, sent the layout and captions off to Zurich, and departed by jeep for what was to have been a year’s photographic trip to Latin America. His trip ended abruptly on May 16th, high in the Peruvian Andes, when a car carrying him and two companions went over a 1500 foot cliff.

I was filled with sadness when I read this. How grateful we should be for each day we live, for how abruptly it may end. To the nostalgia evident in this photo was added the knowledge of the observer’s sudden end. What a loss we feel, when we open the book, for this photo is but the portal to an inestimable treasure of images of Japan by this great photographer.

Werner Bischof, one of the half-dozen most brilliant photographers of his generation, spent almost two years photographing every corner of Japan, every aspect of Japanese life. Out of the many thousands of pictures he took, the 109 most beautiful examples of his work have been assembled in this book.

You will search in vain on the web for these images, which is quite astonishing given their quality. The image above is to my knowledge the only one on the web and I hope I don’t get into trouble for it. But it is the shame of the world that his work is not better known and if this post and this photo introduce you to him then it will be a very great good and I hope I will be forgiven.

10 Places to Find Free Philosophy and Healing Courses Online

This is a guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes about health insurance quotes and related topics for

If you have been looking for new ways to harness your inner strength and increase your health and happiness or if you are just interested in exploring philosophical topics, there are many different free classes that you can take online. Here are 10 free internet and email courses to check out in your spare time.

Classics in Western Philosophy - This free online course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is designed to introduce students to Western philosophical tradition through the works of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and Descartes. Course materials include reading lists, lecture notes, assignments, exams, and other study aids.

Introduction to Ancient Greek Philosophy - Taught by Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, this free online philosophy course examines the development of Greek civilization. Free course materials include lecture transcripts and audio and video lectures.

Philosophy of Mind - This free online course from the University of California - Berkeley focuses on the nature of the human mind. The course consists of 32 audio lectures.

Environmental Philosophy - Norte Dame offers a free online course that focuses on environmental philosophy. Students are encouraged to explore the current environmental crisis and consider ways in which the crisis may be resolved. Free course materials include an ebook, video lectures, and discussion questions.

Philosophy and Death - This free online philosophy course is taught by Professor Shelly Kagan of Yale University. The course explores mortality and death from a philosophical standpoint. Free course materials include both audio and video lectures.

Meditation 101 - Phylameana lila Desy, the Guide to Healing, offers a free introductory meditation course. A portion of the course is delivered via email each day for nine days.

Health U - Health U provides an entire library of free online health and healing courses. Some of the topics you can study include heartburn, insomnia, weight loss surgery, breast cancer, lymphoma, psoriasis, leukemia, and multiple sclerosis.

Principles of Human Nutrition - The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers a free course on the role of nutrition in growth and health. Designed for self-learners, the online course includes lectures and a reading list.

Herbal e-Course - Created by a Community Centered Herbalist, this free online course provides an introduction to herbs and herbal remedies. The course is delivered via email and takes seven days to complete. You can also download a free ebook that explores 23 herbs and their uses.

Yoga Podcast Class - Hillary Rubin, a certified yoga instructor, offers free yoga instruction through video-based podcast classes. Each class takes approximately 40 to 60 minutes to complete.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond