Saturday, October 24, 2015

Japanese Government Admits Fukushima Worker Has Cancer

Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki at news conference

Yesterday, the Japanese Health Ministry made its first admission that a worker at the Fukushima nuclear plant developed cancer as a decontamination worker after the 2011 disaster.

The man, unnamed by the ministry, worked at the damaged plant for over a year, during which time he was exposed to 19.8 millisieverts of radiation, four times the exposure limit the Japanese government sets as safe. The worker has contracted from leukemia.

A Fukushima Daiichi engineer, Masao Yoshida, also contracted esophageal cancer after the disaster and died in 2013 – but TEPCO refused to accept responsibility, insisting that the cancer developed too quickly.

Three other Fukushima workers have also contracted cancer but have yet to have their cases assessed.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster followed the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Three of the reactors on the site melted down sending clouds of deadly radiation into the atmosphere following a hydrogen explosion.  Inspections have found nuclear fuel  melted through the steel reactor vessels and sunk into the concrete foundations.

Charles Gannon and Dallas Brincrest

Thursday, October 22, 2015

US Still Arming ISIS

An Iraqi official shows US weapons taken from ISIS

 Documents from the US Defense Department leaked through Anonymous via Julian Assange yesterday, show U.S. military aircraft have once again dropped weapons in areas held by the Islamic State.

Iraqi volunteers fighting against IS in the Yathrib and Balad districts in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province reported the air drops as well.  Iraq's parliament is voting later today whether Iraq will ask the Russian military to take over US military duties and ask the US to leave.

Iraq claims it is losing the upper hand in the battle to regain territory from the terrorist group due to "Continual US help of the very group we are fighting."

In September an airdrop of weapons were sent Islamic State fighters outside Kobani in Syria.

Also last month, Iraqi intelligence sources said the U.S. is actively supplying ISIS with weapons.   “The Iraqi intelligence sources reiterated that the US military planes have airdropped several aid cargoes for ISIL terrorists to help them resist the siege laid by the Iraqi army, security and popular forces,” a report stated.

“What is important is that the US sends these weapons to only those that cooperate with the Pentagon and this indicates that the US plays a role in arming the ISIS.”

The UK's MI6 previously reported in July that ISIS fighters are using “significant quantities” of arms including M16 assault rifles marked “property of the US government.”

In August, Aaron Klein, writing for WorldNetDaily, reported that members of ISIS were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

While the Obama administration does not admit arming and training ISIS terrorists, General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July that United States’ Arab "allies" in the Middle East fund ISIS.

General Thomas McInerney told Fox News in September that the U.S. “helped build ISIS” as a result of the group obtaining weapons from the Benghazi consulate in Libya which was attacked by jihadists in September 2012.  “We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that’s a little confusing to people, so I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types,” McInerney said.
The U.S. claims it is arming “moderate” mercenaries in Syria to fight against ISIS and the al-Assad government in Damascus despite the fact there are no longer any moderate forces active.

The CIA has shipped weapons to al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria since at least 2012 and continues to do so today, a fact revealed by The New York Times.

The shipments included more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara and other Turkish and Jordanian airports. An effort to arm al-Nusra – now fully merged with ISIS – and other jihadist groups has been coordinated by American intelligence.

Dallas Brincrest

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Defense Department Provided ISIS With Toyotas

Recently officials in Washington DC have asked where ISIS got their Toyotas.  This is odd because it has been known for over a year that the US State and Defense Departments provided ISIS the vehicles through a known ISIS front group the Free Syrian Army.   Both President Obama and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter approved the plan in May 2014 with consultation of State Department Secretary John Kerry.

In June 2014 the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.

Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army's (an ISIS affiliated group) wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based security advisor, provided CNN, PRI, and Reuters the evidence in a September 2014 interview.

"Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground," he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups delivered troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet became battlefield weapons.  

Defense Department documents have shown the US Air Force made six weapons drops into Syria between June 10 and July 9, 2014.  Two drops show 20 and 23 Toyota Hiluxes were included respectively.  The other four drops were simply listed as "Needed tactical and conventional weapons."

"You can absolutely expect many of those trucks were mounted with crew-served machine guns or other type of equipment, military equipment, that the opposition forces have access to. I mean, that's one of the reasons why the Toyota Hilux is such an important force multiplier, because it could be used both for humanitarian purposes and for operational purposes as well."

Syria is only the latest war zone where the Hilux has been a vehicle of choice. The BBC's Kabul correspondent, David Loyn, saw the Hilux put through its paces by the Taliban in the 1990s, and credits the truck with having given Taliban forces a battlefield edge.

"They perfected very fast-moving maneuver warfare, and they did it with Hilux trucks," he says. "The Jane's Defense Weekly analysis of the seizure of Kabul in 1996 was that it was a textbook operation, from three sides, a coordinated piece of warfare using these Hilux trucks as very fast-moving troop-moving vehicles."

Loyn ranks the Hilux among the great game-changers of modern warfare. "You have seen in many wars in the past, a sort of symbolic weapon: the longbow at Agincourt, the Huey helicopter in Vietnam and, I think, the Hilux truck in Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban was [as] significant and iconic a weapon as those."


Monday, October 12, 2015

Japan To Be Downgraded

When markets open in Tokyo tomorrow, Standard & Poor will downgrade its rating of Japanese government debt, citing weak growth. “Despite showing initial promise,” Mr. Abe’s strategy “will not be able to reverse this deterioration in the next two to three years,” the ratings agency said. It was the third of the three major ratings firms to do so. 

On Friday, the Bank of Japan had downgraded its forecast for industrial output in the current quarter to “largely flat” as a result of growth slowdowns in China and emerging economies that are weighing on Japan’s exports.

The latest signs came as doubts over Abenomics, as the Japanese leader’s three-pronged growth strategy is called, are increasingly emerging among economists nearly three years after he took power. 

“The time is not yet ripe for us to declare Abenomics a failure, but we must say we are getting there,” said economist Takuji Okubo of Japan Macro Advisors, a Tokyo economic-analysis firm, who has been supportive of Mr. Abe.

Two figures underscore the urgency. Economists believe Japan will struggle to grow in the current quarter after shrinking 1.3% the previous quarter. And despite unprecedented easing by the Bank of Japan, the leading measure of inflation shows prices are flat, a setback for Mr. Abe’s efforts to eradicate deflation. Low energy prices, while generally good for a big energy importer like Japan, have disrupted the push to generate inflation, Bank of Japan officials say.

Some benchmarks are much improved over three years. The Nikkei stock average is 80% above where it stood when Mr. Abe took office, even after the recent global stock-market shudder, backed by a sharp rise in corporate profits. Demand for workers is stronger than it has been since the early 1990s, when Japan was entering the long period of stagnation. And the headline figure on prices probably underestimates Mr. Abe’s deflation-fighting efforts because it has been pushed down by a one-time fall in oil prices.

“Abenomics is still halfway along the road,” Mr. Abe said on Sept. 8 when he was re-elected as ruling-party leader. He said he would work to “deliver a virtuous cycle of a recovering economy to every corner of the country.” 

Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said Friday that while China’s slowdown would affect Japan somewhat, he believed China’s leaders would soon take steps to boost the economy and restore stable growth.

Yet, none of what Mr. Abe calls the “three arrows” of Abenomics seems equipped to pierce through the barriers keeping consumers from spending and companies from investing more.

The first arrow, monetary stimulus, hasn’t been fired since Oct. 31, 2014, when the Bank of Japan jolted markets by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars in additional money into the financial system and expanding purchases of stocks and real-estate funds.

The second arrow, fiscal stimulus, has ceased to be a force for growth. After a sharp increase in government spending to stimulate the economy in Mr. Abe’s first year, the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in March, will reduce overall government spending if it isn’t augmented with an extra budget.

The third arrow, structural change, has included a drive to improve corporate governance and bring more women into the workforce. While those changes have won praise from foreign investors, Mr. Abe hasn’t recently proposed any major additions to the agenda. There are no signs that bigger changes—such as opening the country more widely to foreign workers—are in the works.

It is a plight Japan has often faced in the quarter-century since its on-and-off doldrums began—difficulty in emerging from a negative cycle of flat or falling prices, pessimism about a declining population and slow growth. 

“It’s hard to imagine that households would increase spending or companies decide on more investment when the medium- and longer-term prospects remain dark,” said Tatsuhiko Yoshizaki, chief economist at trading company Sojitz Corp. ’s research unit.

While some economists say Mr. Abe could boost confidence by doing more to tackle Japan’s high government debt, those close to the prime minister say such painful steps should wait until the economy fully escapes the 15 years of deflation it experienced before Mr. Abe took over.

Tokyo intends to keep pressuring companies directly to invest more and give employees bigger raises. In government-business talks this fall, “I want to give companies a kick in the back,” said economy minister Akira Amari.

For much of the summer, Mr. Abe was occupied with getting parliament to approve one of his cherished ambitions: expanding Japan’s military role overseas and boosting cooperation with the U.S.

Takashi Nakamichi

Sunday, October 11, 2015

UNESCO Adds Nanjing Massacre Documents

One of the added documents
 UNESCO on Saturday added Chinese documents on the "Nanjing Massacre" to the Memory of the World heritage, drawing an immediate protest from the Japanese government questioning whether the U.N. body was "neutral and fair" in registering them.

Beijing's dossier on the widespread killings of Chinese citizens and soldiers following the 1937 capture of Nanjing by the Japanese military is among dozens of new additions of documentary heritage, also including two sets of archives from Japan.

The Japanese materials cover the post-World War II internment and repatriation of Japanese by the Soviet Union and a Buddhist temple's extensive records of its activities from the medieval to pre-modern eras in Japan.

China had also nominated "comfort women" files. But this was not added in the biennial registration by UNESCO for the documentary version of the World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage programs, which started in 1997.

The "Documents of the Nanjing Massacre" consists of court documents from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East that convicted several Japanese as war criminals and a Chinese military tribunal, among others. They also include photos of the killings said to have been taken by the Imperial Japanese Army and film footage taken by an American missionary.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a press secretary's statement that "the nomination was made on the basis of unilateral arguments" and "it is extremely regrettable" that they were registered.

It "raises a question about the action of the international organization that ought to be neutral and fair" and "it is evident that there is a problem about the veracity" of the archives, it said.

Differences over history have complicated Japan's relations with China. Japanese officials may be concerned that UNESCO's registration of the documents could give Beijing ammunition against Tokyo in promoting its campaign to highlight what it calls "the crimes of Japanese militarism," including the "Nanjing Massacre", in which it claims more than 300,000 people were killed.

Japanese historians estimate the death toll at ranging between the tens of thousands to 200,000.

Last year China nominated the "Nanjing Massacre" files and the "comfort women" documents for UNESCO listing this year on the 70th anniversary of what Beijing calls its victory in a war of resistance against Japanese aggression and in the world war against fascism.

Tokyo argued that China was politicizing UNESCO and asked Beijing to withdraw the double nominations, which China refused to do, according to Japanese officials.

Japanese historian Masato Miyachi, a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said, "By registering Nanjing Massacre materials as Memory of the World heritage, UNESCO is recognizing the authenticity of documents and their significance in the world."

He noted that there are other UNESCO-listed documents about dark episodes of history such as war and slavery. "If, however, the veracity of the documents submitted by China is questioned, that would undermine the credibility of the entire Memory of the World heritage," he said.

According to Japan's Foreign Ministry, the Memory of the World screening criteria concerns the necessity of the preservation and custody of documents and whether they represent historical truth is not considered.

These and other documents were selected for registration by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova following recommendations by an international advisory panel that met in Abu Dhabi from Sunday to Tuesday.

One of the two sets of documents listed from Japan is a collection of some 570 memoirs, drawings and other items composed by Japanese inmates of Siberian labor camps after World War II, and lists of those repatriated after the war to Maizuru port in Kyoto Prefecture.

Roughly 55,000 of the nearly 600,000 Japanese soldiers detained in labor camps in Siberia and Mongolia after the war died due to forced labor, the severe living conditions and malnutrition.

Before applying for the registration, the Maizuru city government investigated other documents with the help of its sister city Nakhodka, near Vladivostok, in eastern Russia. The Japanese government and Maizuru city applied to register those documents in March 2014.

The other collection is the archives at Toji Temple called the "Toji Hyakugo Monjo," or Toji Temple's 100 boxes of documents, comprised of some 25,000 documents from the years 763 to 1711. The collection -- records of the ancient temple system and social structures -- was designated a Japanese national treasure in 1997.

In the next registration phase in 2017, Japan will seek to list the records of diplomat Chiune Sugihara who issued visas to help some 6,000 Jews flee from Nazi persecution during WWII, as well as three ancient stone monuments and documents of Korean missions to Japan in the Edo period.


Meet Katsunobu Kato

The man PM Abe has chosen to lead the LDP's efforts to foster economic and population growth is not a household name.  Katsunobu Kato however is known in the nationalist circle of Tokyo.

Kato twice failed to get elected to the Diet in 1998 and 2000 due to his anti-Korean rhetoric.  Kato accused South Korea of conspiring with North Korea to abduct Japanese citizens.  Kato has denied the use of sex slaves and has often said that reparations to Koreans are "an insult to Japan's dignity as they help perpetuate a lie."

Kato does not stop at his disdain for Koreans and a need to revise history though.  Kato also is against Abe plans to expand the role of women in Japan.  Just last Monday, Kato noted, "I do not understand how we can grow the population and have women in the work place.  Either women care for the home or they should stay single.  It seems Abe wants to cater to the liberal I want it both ways crowd."

Kato is also openly affiliated with the Nippon Kaigi.  This nationalist and far right wing organization seeks to completely do away with Article 9 of the constitution.  Approve history textbooks for schools that portray Japan as fighting WWII to save Asia from European and American imperialism.  Revise the use of sex slaves, POW torture, Unit 723, and the invasion and slaughter in Nanjing.  PM Abe serves on the executive committee with Kato.  All of the Abe cabinet members are chosen from LDP politicians affiliated with this group.

Kato's new appointment as Minister In Charge Of Building A Society Which All Can Participate is seen as a joke among many LDP and opposition party members.  They see this as no more than another office created to bounce ideas but find no solutions.

Masato Imai, Secretary General of the second largest opposition party, Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), questioned the necessity of creating the new post.  “I have no idea what kind of roles the minister will play. Abe is trying to appeal to the public with a catch line of creating a society where all 100 million citizens can play active roles,” Imai told reporters.

Kato, a former Finance Ministry official, will also serve as a minister in charge of female empowerment as well as abduction issues.  Ironic considering Kato's stand on these issues.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Abe - Putin Summit Will Change Little

Abe and Putin at UN Sept 28

Among the various disputes in East Asia that have garnered significant attention over the past two years, the Russia-Japanese dispute over the Kuril Islands ( or Northern Territories as they are known in Japan) has been treated as an almost afterthought. While the potential for conflict over this dispute is minimal, it has served to complicate Russia-Japan relations. Recent actions by Moscow have angered Tokyo and while both sides wish to reach a peaceful resolution, Moscow insists that the status of the islands is not up for debate. With Russian President Putin pursuing a more active foreign policy and nationalism growing in Japan under Prime Minister Abe, a resolution to this dispute does not seem likely in the short term.

Several islands in an island chain north of Hokkaido were developed by Japanese migrants from the 18th century onward and in 1855, Russian and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimoda granting Japan the four southernmost islands in the chain. Japan maintained control of these islands until the end of World War II when they were occupied by Russia. In 1949, Russia deported all of the Japanese residents on them to Japan. Japan renounced “all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands” in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty though this was not signed by Russia nor did the Japanese recognize the southernmost four islands as part of the Kuril chain. Since then the dispute has remained unresolved and since Japan views Russia as an occupying force, neither countries have signed a peace treaty to end their World War II hostilities.

There have been numerous attempts at settling the dispute but they have always fallen far short of what Tokyo has sought and what Moscow was willing to concede. By 2013, relations between Japan and Russia were improving and the possibility of a resolution being realized was becoming more likely. The 2014 revolution in Ukraine ended this as Russia-Japan relations suddenly thawed. Since then, Russia has taken provocative military steps in the region and has signaled its intent to retain control of the islands.

This summer marked not only the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory against Japan in World War II and the start of its occupation of the northern territories but also a worsening of the situation. In response to Abe’s June visit to Kiev, Ukraine, Moscow announced that the construction of military facilities in the Kurils would speed up. In August, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev in a widely publicized event visited the Kuril Islands on Russia’s state Flag Day. Tokyo immediately lodged a protest against this visit which was one of many made by senior Russian government officials over the summer.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov commented during the World War II anniversary celebrations that the territorial issues between Russia and Japan had been solved 70 years ago. Japan immediately protested these comments with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida calling them “unacceptable” and “unproductive and false”.  Later in September, Kishida travelled to Russia on a three-day visit to discuss the disputed islands.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov though stated that the only topic to be discussed is that of a peace deal, not the status of the territories. Lavrov said, “Moving forward on this issue is possible only after we see clearly Japan’s recognition of historic realities. The work is difficult and the difference in positions is vast”.

In the past there were indications that Russia might eventually hand over the disputed territories to Japan. Now that does not seem likely as Russia is unwilling to portray the issue as one where Japan has a legitimate claim; instead all Russia wants is to reach a peace deal without a change in territory. As far as Moscow is concerned, the islands belong to Russia and if a peace deal is to be reached, Japan must recognize them as part of Russia.

High-level talks will restart October 12 in Moscow for the first time since last January. It is uncertain though what these talks will produce given Russia’s new position on the issue. Furthermore, Russia cannot afford to suddenly backtrack since such a move would be seen as weakness at a time when Moscow is actively involved in Ukraine and Syria. Japan though will not back down either as Tokyo has nothing to lose. For these reasons, this dispute will continue to live on for years to come.

Stephen Brooker

Thyroid Cancer Rise Linked To Fukushima Radiation

Four Japanese researchers have attributed most of the thyroid cancer cases found among children and adolescents after the March 2011 nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Prefecture to radiation from the accident in their report published Tuesday.

Annual thyroid cancer incidence rates in Fukushima after the disaster through late last year were 20- to 50-fold higher than a pre-accident level for the whole of Japan, a team led by Toshihide Tsuda, professor of environmental epidemiology at Okayama University, said in the electronic edition of the journal of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.

The finding, based on screening some 370,000 Fukushima residents aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident, “is unlikely to be explained by a screening surge,” the researchers said, pointing to radiation exposure as a factor behind the rise in thyroid cancer cases.

But their conclusion is refuted by other epidemiology experts, including Shoichiro Tsugane of the National Cancer Center, who said the results of the researchers’ analysis are premature.

“Unless radiation exposure data are checked, any specific relationship between a cancer incidence and radiation cannot be identified,” said Tsugane, director of the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening. He also referred to a global trend of overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer.

As of late August, the Fukushima prefecture government identified 104 thyroid cancer cases in the prefecture.

But the prefectural government and many experts have doubted whether these cases are related to the nuclear disaster because the radioactive iodine released from the crisis was smaller compared with the level following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.


Shinjiro Koizumi: Japan Must Have Drastic Change

Shinjiro Koizumi Son Of Former PM Junichiro Koizumi The Japanese public’s top pick to become the next prime minister says the country’...