END THEME ~ Japanese director Shunji Iwai and middle school student-turned anti-nuclear activist Fujinami Kokoro survey the almost surreal devastation in the aftermath of the triple disasters that hit Iwai’s native northeastern Japan March 11, 2011. Music: “Breath” by alternative rock band Radwimps.

VIENNA, NHK~Japan’s minister in charge of the nuclear disaster says reactors at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant will be cooled to below 100 degrees Celsius by the end of 2011.
Goshi Hosono spoke at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s annual ministerial meeting on Monday.
Hosono said that decontaminated water has been successfully used to cool down the troubled nuclear reactors, bringing the temperature close to 100 degrees Celsius. He also said spent nuclear fuel pools have been cooled in a stable manner.
Hosono also said the spent nuclear fuel has been steadily cooled and will fall below 100 degrees by the end of this year, instead of early next year as initially predicted.
When the reactors and spent fuel have been cooled below 100 degrees, radiation emissions can be kept very low.
The minister also said Japan will work with the IAEA to remove radioactive materials from areas near Fukushima Daiichi.
He explained the plan to separate the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, saying it will be merged with the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission to create a nuclear safety agency under the Environment Ministry by next April.

Here’s NHK World anchor Catherine Kobayashi bringing news of Minister Hosono’s bold announcement on her Tuesday morning (8 am JST) newscast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 07:00 +0900 (JST)

Japanese American nuclear physicist Dr. Michio Kaku appeared on CNN’s “In the Arena” news program Aug. 2 to discuss the disclosure this week that lethal levels of radiation have been detected outside reactors #1 and #2 at the earthquake and tsunami ravaged Fukushima Daiichi complex. Kaku’s CNN appearance Tuesday marked the first time in more than a month that he has taken to the airwaves to discuss developments at the Japanese reactors.

The recent admission by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that owns and operates the stricken reactors, came amid reports of radiation in water, soil, crops, beef and seafood across a more widespread area of Japan than previously reported, stretching in an arc up to and even beyond 200 miles away from the melted down reactor cores. (Note: Tokyo is a mere 140 miles from the Fukushima reactors.) The Japanese government announced Wednesday that it will soon begin testing rice across 14 prefectures from the northeast through central Japan to ensure the safety of the country’s staple dietary component.

Kaku says

  • “They (TEPCO) haven’t even begun cleaning up the operation. It’s not stable yet. Maybe next year it might be stable.”
  • Lethal radiation in the ventilator shafts is a leftover from the original accident. Workers have to stay away from the ventilation shafts; it’s no-man’s land. Robots at Fukushima Daiichi are not automatons that can perform repairs. “That is beyond our capability.”
  • “Hitachi Corp. has estimated 30 years for cleanup~in other words, up to 50 years. Three Mile Island took 14 years to clean up. Chernobyl after 25 years is still not cleaned up. It’s still melting into the ground.”
  • “The Japanese people don’t trust the utility’s (radiation) figures anymore. Either they were incompetent or they were lying.”
  • Physicists in the U.S. using independent computer simulations of the Fukushima Daiichi accident suspected early-on that the Japanese utility was low-balling their estimates of radiation damage.

WATCH… via Somalian Pirate Media (video swiped using HTC Sensation)

By Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones, April 27, 2009

It stuns me that we are still having a debate, as a country, over whether or not what the Bush Administration did to detainees in the war on terror was actually torture. I would hope that this helps settle things. The fact-checking outfit called PolitiFact confirms that a McCain statement from 2007, dredged up recently by Paul Begala, is accurate:

“I forgot to mention last night that following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding,” [McCain] told reporters at a campaign event.

“If the United States is in another conflict … and we have allowed that kind of torture to be inflicted upon people we hold captive, then there is nothing to prevent that enemy from also torturing American prisoners.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Obon In America Animation

Japanese Americans all across the land from Vermont to Hawaii will celebrate the ancient Buddhist Obon festival in the coming weeks with joyous folk dancing, religious observances and traditional Japanese foods in what is the most authentic cultural event remaining in Japanese America.

Obon Festival season continues through August and marks the zenith of the Buddhist year. But more than just a chance to take colorful photos and eat Japanese comfort foods, Obon is a Buddhist teaching come alive.

Obon [ お盆 ] originates from the story of Mokuren, a disciple of the Buddha, who during a meditative trance saw his deceased mother suffering in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (the Buddhist equivalent of purgatory). Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this suffering. Buddha instructed him to make offerings and to meditate on the life of his mother. Mokuren followed the Buddha’s instructions and he began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple, happy because of his mother’s release and grateful for his mother’s kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy came Obon, which has been celebrated for thousands of years as a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.

Hundreds of yukata-clad dancers jam Halldale Ave. in Gardena, Calif. to dance the Bon Odori in memory of departed loved ones. The Gardena Buddhist temple will host its annual Obon on Aug. 1 & 2

2009 OBON FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Aug. 1-2—Gardena Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 1517 W. 166th St., Gardena, CA 90247; (310) 327-9400; 3-10 p.m. Sat./2-9 p.m. Sun.

Aug. 1—Buddhist Temple of San Diego Obon Odori, 2929 Market St., San Diego, CA 92102; (619) 239-0896: 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 1—Oregon Buddhist Temple “Obonfest 2009,” 3720 SE 34th Ave., Portland, OR 97202; (503) 234-9456: 4-9 p.m.

Aug. 1—San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405; (805)-595-2625: 1-9 p.m.

(805)-595-2625
(408) 424-4105

Aug. 1—Waialua Hongwanji Temple Obon, 67-313 Kealohanui St., Waialua, HI 96791; (808) 637-4395: from 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 1-2—Palo Alto Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 2751 Louis Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303; (650)856-0123: 5-11 p.m. Sat./noon-10 p.m. Sun.

Watsonville Obon

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SwineFluSensojiTokyoMay21

The U.S., for now, has moved on from the so-called “swine” flu, but much of the rest of the world continues to apply measures to stem the spread of the H1N1 virus and drug companies rush to bring a vaccine to the market.

The mainstream media in the U.S. has turned its attention away from the swine flu and redirected its focus to the economy, crime and American Idol.

This despite the fact that confirmed cases continue to rise on the east and west coasts and reports that a H1N1 vaccine isn’t due for several more weeks.

Fresh outbreaks of the virus are being reported in the northeast region of the United States, centered around the greater New York City area, and health officials now fear that H1N1 now appears to be spreading in Japan, pushing the world to the brink of a full-fledged swine flu pandemic.

A headline in the May 21 global edition of the The New York Times read: “Japan Is in Crisis Mode,” and detailed the growing fears about the the spread of H1N1 virus in what is perhaps the world’s most hygienic nation.

Meanwhile, the EU this week issued a travel advisory about travel to the U.S.

Track the spread of the H1N1 cases in the U.S. and around the world with FluTracker interactive maps:

FluTracker_US_county FluTrackerWorldUpdate

fun-suicide_136x277A suicide technique that uses a mixture of household products to produce a deadly hydrogen sulfide gas became a grisly fad in Japan last year. Now it’s slowly seeping into the United States over the internet, according to emergency workers, who are alarmed at the potential for innocent casualties.

[The graphic that accompanies this post comes from a Japanese website 3yen.com]

The first sign that the technique was migrating to the United States came in August, when  a 23-year-old California man was found dead in his car behind a Pasadena shopping center. The  VW Beetle’s doors were locked, the windows rolled up and a warning sign had been posted in one of the windows.

The 517 self-inflicted deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning this year in 2008 are were part of a bigger, grimmer story: Nearly 34,000 Japanese killed themselves last year, according to the Japanese national police. That’s the second-highest toll ever in a country where the suicide rate is ninth highest in the world and more than double that of the USA, the World Health Organization says.

H/T Babamoto, WIRED, Kevin Poulsen

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