Category Archives: Asia

Maps of the day: Tracking Zika virus’s spread

From the World Health Organization:

BLOG Zika 1

1947: Scientists conducting routine surveillance for yellow fever in the Zika forest of Uganda isolate the Zika virus in samples taken from a captive, sentinel rhesus monkey.

1948: The virus is recovered from the mosquito Aedes africanus, caught on a tree platform in the Zika forest.

1952: The first human cases are detected in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania in a study demonstrating the presence of neutralizing antibodies to Zika virus in sera.

BLOG Zika 2

1969–1983: The known geographical distribution of Zika expands to equatorial Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, where the virus is detected in mosquitos. As in Africa, sporadic human cases occur but no outbreaks are detected and the disease in humans continues to be regarded as rare, with mild symptoms. Seroprevalence studies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan indicate widespread population exposure.16–19 Researchers later suggest that the clinical similarity of Zika infection with dengue and chikungunya may be one reason why the disease was so rarely reported in Asia.

2007: Zika spreads from Africa and Asia to cause the first large outbreak in humans on the Pacific island of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia. Prior to this event, no outbreaks and only 14 cases of human Zika virus disease had been documented worldwide.20 House-to-house surveys among the island’s small population of 11 250 people identify 185 cases of suspected Zika virus disease.

BLOG Zika 3

2013–2014: The virus causes outbreaks in four other groups of Pacific islands: French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia.26,27 The outbreak in French Polynesia, generating thousands of suspected infections, is intensively investigated. The results of retrospective investigations are reported to WHO on 24 November 2015 and 27 January 2016.

2 March 2015: Brazil notifies WHO of reports of an illness characterized by skin rash in northeastern states. From February 2015 to 29 April 2015, nearly 7000 cases of illness with skin rash are reported in these states. All cases are mild, with no reported deaths. Of 425 blood samples taken for differential diagnosis, 13% are positive for dengue. Tests for chikungunya, measles, rubella, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus are negative. Zika was not suspected at this stage, and no tests for Zika were carried out.

1 February 2016: WHO declares that the recent association of Zika infection with clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Fukushima Follies: The latest sad chapter

3/11 is to Japan as 9/11 is to the United States, the day an unexpected attack claimed thousands of lives and left a legacy that continues to divide the nation.

But Japan’s 3/11 was the result of an act of nature, a massive earthquake, the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake of 11 March 2011 followed by tidal waves that claimed 18,456 killed and missing.

Another disaster followed two months later when three reactors at the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex went into meltdown, triggering mass evacuations and a health and environmental crisis that continues five years later.

A year after the meltdowns the Japanese government estimated costs of the Fukushima disaster at $100 billion.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. [TEPCO], owner and operator of the facility, has obfuscated the reasons they took so long to respond to the crises, but now some troubling admissions are coming to light.

From the Asahi Shimbun:

A Tokyo Electric Power Co. senior official has admitted to knowing the criteria to assess reactor meltdowns during the onset of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

However, it took the company two months to make the declaration and another five years to “discover” its operational manual, which would have allowed it to declare a meltdown.

Until February this year, TEPCO had justified the delay in that it did not have the “basis to determine” such an occurrence. It announced Feb. 24 that it discovered a guideline in its operational manual.

TEPCO admitted that meltdowns had occurred in May 2011, two months after the disaster.

Yuichi Okamura, a senior director on nuclear power generation, said in a news conference on April 11 that he knew of the standard, although emphasizing it was only his “personal knowledge.” He did not elaborate on whether he knew the existence of the operational manual, or whether he shared his “personal knowledge” with other staff members.

The Japanese government is getting ready to release more radioactive water from the complex into the Pacific, and it contains a lot of radiation — 3.4 peta becquerels. That’s 3,400,000,000,000,000 becquerels for folks not fluent in scientific notation.

By way of comparison, radioactive isotopes injected into the body for medical diagnostic tests typically run emit about 70,000,000 becquerels.

And with that, on to this report from Japan Today:

To dump or not to dump a little-discussed substance is the question brewing in Japan as it grapples with the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima five years ago. The substance is tritium.

The radioactive material is nearly impossible to remove from the huge quantities of water used to cool melted-down reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which was wrecked by the massive tsunami in northeastern Japan in March 2011.

The water is still accumulating since 300 tons are needed every day to keep the reactors chilled. Some is leaking into the ocean.

Huge tanks lined up around the plant, at last count 1,000 of them, each hold hundreds of tons of water that have been cleansed of radioactive cesium and strontium but not of tritium.

The Japanese government is preparing to authorize another release of that “hot” water, but says there’s nothing to worry about, since the tritium will be so dilute as to be inconsequential.

If so, why aren’t they just allowing it to run freely instead of storing it in all those tanks?

Inquiring minds want to know. . .

We can”t help but recall what R. Buckminster Fuller told us 36 years ago: Nuclear power’s a wonderful thing, and nature has determined that the perfect distance to separate it from us is 93 million miles.

Headline of the day: Trans-Pacific Pandering

From the Intercept:

Pro-TPP Op-Eds Remarkably Similar to Drafts By Foreign Government Lobbyists

Newspapers in California published pro-TPP columns that appear to have been at least partially authored by lobbyists working for the Japanese government.

Quote of the day: The TPP, worst-ever trade deal

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz slams the Trans-Pacific Partnership as the worst trade deal ever in an interview with Canada’s CBC News:

I think the worst part is the investors agreement, which allows investors to sue the Canadian government. It’s similar to the provision in NAFTA that resulted in a number of suits against Canada lost, unfortunately. But the TPP is in most respects worse — opens the door, changes the basic legal framework. For instance, it used to be that, and it’s the basic principle in most countries, that the polluter pays. If you damage the environment you have to pay. Now, if you draft a regulation that restricts the ability to pollute, that does something about climate change, you could be sued and pay billions of dollars.

For instance, a Canadian company is suing the United States now under NAFTA for the decision by Obama not to allow the Keystone project to go forward. Canada’s been sued for environmental impact statements. There have been suits around the world for minimum wages.

There are worries that the expanse of TPP to certain financial regulations means that if you try to restrict usury or predatory lending, the abusive practices of banks that keep coming to light you can be sued.


[In the area of trade benefits] there are indications that benefits for the Canadian economy are relatively small. For the United States, the largest economy, it’s effects on U.S. growth is somewhere between 0.0 percent from one of the government to a study by Tufts University showing that it would actually be negative for the United States.

Clearly the Trans-Pacific Partnership so enthusiastically endorsed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is not in the interests of American voters, the environment, and the organized labor movement that has been the backbone of the Democratic Party.

Who, then, benefits? Well, how about multinational corporations and bankers, for openers. The very same people who are pouring on the cash that will make this year’s presidential race the first billion-dollar contest, not to mention the cash spent to control Congress, governorships, and state legislatures, control exercised by blowing dog whistles of racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.

Days of Revolt: America’s brutalizing ways of war

The latest edition of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English, features a joint interview of two American combat veterans who have seen first hand the brutalization and depersonalization integral to Uncle Sam’s imperial adventures’

Featured are Michael Hanes, a ten-year veteran of the US Marines Corps who served in Iraq as a member of the elite 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, the top echolon the the service’s special forces detachment, and Rory Fanning who served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion, that service’s original special warriors.

Both men have become peace activists and work on behalf of military veterans, and both see the brutality of America’s military engagements as the most essential recruiting tool for groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Why the Brutalized Become Brutal

From the transcript:

FANNING: Right, right. So we’d land in there. We’d put a bag over every military aged person?s head, whether they were a member of the Taliban or not, give the person who identified that person money, and then that person would also get that neighbor?s property.

So in a country with as much desperation and poverty as Afghanistan at the time, you’d do anything to put money or food on your family’s table and essentially that?s what we were doing. But we were also bringing people who had absolutely no stake in the fight into the war. And, so we were creating enemies, you know? I signed up after 9/11 to prevent another 9/11 from happening, but soon after arriving in Afghanistan I realized I was only creating the conditions for more terrorist attacks and it was a hard pill to swallow. I mean, we were essentially a bully, you know?

HEDGES: I mean worse than a bully, I mean, you know, we murder.

FANNING: Well we’d have a rocket land in our camp and we wouldn?t necessarily know where it came from. It came from that general direction over there. We’d call in a five-hundred pound bomb and it would land on a village. I mean, we know [because of] the International Physicians Against the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, that a million people have been killed around the world since 9/11. You know, we know, conservatively, that at least 80 percent of those people have been innocent civilians. So, I think to understand Brussels you have to get to the root of some of this stuff.

HEDGES: Yeah, and maybe Michael you can talk a little about some of your experience in Iraq.

HANES: Yes, well I mean, you know, the same thing with me, really. I was in the Iraq invasion and we pushed up into Baghdad and things [became], really, very real for me when we began to kick in doors, place charges in doors and rush into these homes and terrorize these people.

You know, I would say probably about 50 percent or more of the intel that we got was just dead wrong. Busting in these doors you come into a family?s house and there’s elderly women, young little girls, three, four years old, just screaming and horrific, just terrified to where they literally soil themselves. They pee their pants. And then, you know, you’re taking grandma and throwing her up against the wall and interrogating her. And that, you know, hits you right here. It hits you really hard.

And that’s when I began to ask myself, what the hell am I doing? You know? And then if you happen to be a young man in there, in your early twenties or anywhere in that range where you can carry a weapon, then just by mere association of being a young male, a possible insurgent, Saddam Fedayeen loyalist, whatever the case may be, you were taken out of the home and taken somewhere to be interrogated.

Map of the day: Understudied and overstudied

From a report, “Conservation Research Is Not Happening Where It Is Most Needed,” published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, a depiction of the focus of conservation research as reflected on the number of articles published with a focus on specific countries:

BLOG Pub deficit

From the report, written by scientists from Australia, Germany the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and Botswana:

The countries for which knowledge is sparse coincide with where research is most urgently needed. The top five countries, ranked according to relative importance for mammal conservation (i.e, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico, and Australia), were represented in 11.9% of the publications. However, our determination, based on relative importance for investment in mammal conservation, was that these countries should be represented in 37.2% of the publications. We determined that the United States should be represented in approximately 0.5% of the publications—instead, it was the subject of approximately 17.8% of the publications and was the most studied country overall. If we consider the broader definition of conservation importance that reflects the richness of vascular plants, endemic species, and functional species, then the top five countries (i.e., Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Papua New Guinea) are the focus of only 1.6% of publications. On the basis of the proposed level of investment for mammal conservation alone, we would expect these countries to be represented in at least 7.3% of the publications. Comparatively less research is published on the most biodiverse countries.

Headline of the day III: Life under neoliberalism

From CNBC:

Japan’s elderly turn to life of crime to ease cost of living

Japan’s prison system is being driven to budgetary crisis by demographics, a welfare shortfall and a new, pernicious breed of villain: the recidivist retiree. And the silver-haired crooks, say academics, are desperate to be behind bars.