We open with this grim assessment from United Press International:
One-fifth of Chinese farmland is polluted, study says
- Nearly one-fifth of China’s available farmland is polluted.
Nearly one-fifth of China’s available farmland is polluted, a government report said.
Issued Thursday by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Resources, it said 16.1 percent of the country’s land was polluted, as was 19.4 percent of its farmland, citing “human industrial and agricultural activities” as the cause. The report was based on a study, from 2005 to 2013, on land across China.
China’s rapid industrialization, a lack of regulations and a dominance of commercial interests were cited as the cause.
The most common pollutants are cadmium, nickel and arsenic, three materials whose presence in soil have risen sharply since 1986. The cadmium level in southwestern land increased by 50 percent since 1986, and southern Chinese soil is more severely polluted than that in the north, the report said.
And an even grimmer warning from The Guardian:
Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water
- Fish will make themselves vulnerable by being attracted to predator odour and exhibiting bolder behaviour
Escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.
A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2.
Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea.
And from Reuters, a case of too little, too late:
Manager at Japan’s Fukushima plant admits radioactive water ‘embarrassing’
The manager of the Fukushima nuclear power plant admits to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Japan’s prime minister told the world the matter was resolved.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant’s operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima was wrecked by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited.
“It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control,” Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant this week. He was referring to the latest blunder at the plant: channelling contaminated water to the wrong building.
From the Washington Post, yet another take on Obama’s alleged “recovery”:
Long-term unemployed struggle to find — and keep — jobs
For the long-term unemployed, finding a job is hard — but keeping one may be even harder.
New research tracking people who have been out of work for six months or longer found that 23 percent landed a job within a few months of the study. But a year later, more than a third of that group was unemployed again or out of the labor force altogether.
The findings are the latest in a bleak but growing body of literature suggesting long-term unemployment has become a trap that is difficult to escape.
Economists say that means the long-term unemployed could become a permanent underclass, left behind by the nation’s broader economic recovery.
From MediaWire, a case of censorship from afar:
NYT abides by Israeli gag order, draws questions from public editor
The New York Times delayed publication of a story this week about a young journalist and Palestinian rights advocate held by Israeli authorities, abiding by a court gag order, the Times’ public editor wrote Friday.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren told Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that the paper is bound by the gag orders:
She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.
The newspaper’s newsroom lawyer told Sullivan “the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media,” but said the Times hasn’t challenged the restriction in Israel.
And from the Japan Times, rebranding militarism:
Military waging popularity campaign
- SDF charm offensive coincides with Abe’s collective defense push
Pacifist Japan is gradually learning to love its military, with an apparent public relations campaign to soften its image featuring online popularity contests, a much-touted soprano vocalist and dating events.
The armed forces are also visible in youth culture, with young teens tuning in to “Girl und Panzer,” a cartoon about schoolgirls who do battle in tanks. Japan’s most popular Twitter hashtag in 2013 was #KanColle, a reference to an online game in which anthropomorphized warships compete to out-pretty each other as young girls.
The image change comes as nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to give the Self Defense Forces more money and scope to act as a normal military might, at a time of rising tensions with China.
From the Reykjavík Grapevine, the curious case of the peaceful latter-day Vikings:
Examining The First Use Of Lethal Force By Icelandic Police
In a large apartment block in the Árbær suburb, the police gunned down a middle-aged man early morning on December 2, 2013. Not only was this the first time the Icelandic police used lethal force, but also the first time they fired a live round in the line of duty. Considering its monumental significance in Icelandic history this incident has received remarkably little attention from the media.
Finally, via the Oakland Tribune, a criticism of the profiteering spouse of California’s plutocratic senator:
Berkeley: USPS doesn’t follow historic preservation rules, report says
An agency that oversees preservation of federally owned historic property took the United States Postal Service to task in a report issued April 17, noting “significant concerns” resulting from sales of historic post offices due to the loss to the public of facilities built for public use, and the risk to historic art and architecture.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation report “Preserving Historic Post Offices: A Report to Congress,” states that “these concerns include not just the decision to close the facilities, but the manner in which the USPS is conducting its decision-making process, the transparency of that process, and how it conducts the … consultation process” mandated under the National Historic Preservation Act.
One of the problem areas the report noted was that the postal service did not look at alternatives to sales, such as leasing properties.
“The ACHP has no evidence that the USPS has explored (as mandated under the preservation act) any alternatives to disposal of any of the historic post offices to date,” the report said.
ACHP further criticized USPS for not using “alternative property disposal systems.”
Currently, USPS has charged the giant real estate firm CBRE with marketing historic post offices. CBRE chair is Richard Blum, UC Berkeley trustee and spouse of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco.
The report says it would be preferable to market the properties through the General Services Administration’s Office of Real Property Disposal, which “offers comprehensive services to federal agencies … in the marketing and sale of federal real estate at a cost lower than commercial vendors.”
By now, the pattern should be clear: The catastrophic consequences of our brave new neoliberal world are global, with a notable exception provided by the descendants of those who were once some of planet’s most violent predators.