First up, from Kyodo News, killing to continue:
Despite IWC resolution, Japan to start “research whaling”: Suga
Japan plans to start “research whaling” in the Antarctic in fiscal 2015 despite a resolution by the International Whaling Commission against the practice, the top government spokesman said Friday.
“We will make preparations so we can start new research whaling in the Antarctic in fiscal 2015,” based on a ruling by the International Court of Justice, Suga said at a regular press conference. “It’s extremely regrettable” that the resolution was adopted, he said.
Suga said Japan’s practices are “completely in line with” the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
The Mainichi covers some of the hypocrisy:
Research whaling costs 4 bil. yen per year
Japan has insisted on resuming research whaling because, in the words of a senior Fisheries Agency official, it needs scientific data for resuming commercial whaling.
If Japan is forced to pull out of scientific whaling, the chances of resuming commercial whaling will evaporate, and even limited coastal hunts for small whales may be further scaled down.
According to an estimation made by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), there are 515,000 minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean. As there are no other whale varieties with populations this big, Japan believes it is reasonable to turn to minke whales for scientific purposes.
But scientific whaling in the Antarctic and Northwest Pacific costs about 4 billion yen a year. Japan’s nonprofit Institute of Cetacean Research is in charge of the project. It has sold whale meat gleaned from scientific whaling to help run its operations, but the number of whales it has caught in the Antarctic has been far lower than its targets due to interference from anti-whaling groups. The Fisheries Agency says the government supplements the institute’s budget with an annual subsidy of about 1 billion yen because proceeds from whale meat are not enough to fund its operations.
From Salon, crying foul on corporate factory fowls:
White House: Factory farms are putting the public at risk — but we’re not going to do anything about it
- New executive orders aimed at staving off “the next pandemic” both acknowledge and ignore livestock’s contribution
The Obama administration is finally making serious moves toward addressing antibiotic resistance, calling up an executive task force and presidential advisory committee dedicated to the problem. The executive orders signed Thursday, the AP reports, also call for “new regulations to make sure there is appropriate oversight of the use of antibiotics in hospitals” and “encourage better tracking of antibiotic use and the development of new antibiotics and tests.”
Some experts, according to the New York Times, were impressed just that the president decided to take on this issue. But even though we’ve known about the threat of antibiotic resistance for years, warnings have recently become especially charged. This past April, the World Health Organization released a report characterizing antibiotic-resistant superbugs as a world-wide threat to public health: the bacteria that cause “common, serious diseases” bloodstream infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea, it found, are developing resistance to the drugs needed to treat them, including those classified as “last resort.” In July, CDC Director Thomas Frieden called for immediate action to address the crisis, which he warned could lead to the “next pandemic.” Currently, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are responsible for at least 23,00 deaths in the U.S. each year. So you could also argue that the problem has become pretty much un-ignorable.
Considerably less awesome is the fact that the government will continue to ignore the abuse of antibiotics in livestock, which in the U.S. occurs at astounding rates. To give just one example of how widespread the problem is, a recent Reuters investigation revealed that the use of antibiotics at the nation’s largest poultry companies is reserved not for illness, but is instead “a standard practice over most of the birds’ lives.”
From the Independent, another climate alarm:
Greenland’s dark snow may start global warming ‘feedback loop’
Dr Jason Box, a glaciology professor, has just finished his 23rd expedition to the Danish-owned island since 1994, a series of trips that included spending a year camped on the country’s inland ice. And this time, said Dr Box, he had never seen anything like it.
“Where I took the photos I was stunned by how large an area had such a dark appearance,” said Dr Box, who works for the Geological Survey of Greenland. “This rocket ride has just gotten off the launchpad. I expect the snow and ice to continue darkening – every indication is that the Arctic climate will continue warming and the number of wildfires will keep increasing.”
Unlike the black ice found on Britain’s streets, which is clear and takes on the colour of dark surfaces underneath it, Greenland’s ice and snow really is becoming darker. Dr Fox, who co-founded the Dark Snow Project to measure the impact of the blackening ice on its ability to reflect sunlight, has calculated that the ice sheet is 5.6 per cent darker this year than last.
From the Guardian, Global Corporate University strikes again:
University of California rejects student call to divest from fossil fuels
- Straying from the precedent set by Stanford and Harvard, university’s board of regents will continue to invest in fossil fuels
The University of California voted on Friday to maintain its investments in fossil fuels, frustrating a student-led effort to divest its portfolio in oil, natural gas and coal.
UC is among the major college endowments have been reluctant to shake up their portfolios by pulling out of fossil fuels after Stanford University, one of the most prestigious and wealthiest in America, took that step in May.
Jagdeep Bachher, UC Regent’s Chief Investment Officer, said in a presentation that UC’s fossil fuel holdings amounts to $10bn of the $91bn in the college’s investment portfolio.
Mining the same vein, but across the Pacific, via Reuters:
China power plants exempt from ban on using low-quality coal: sources
China’s bid to limit the consumption of low-quality thermal coal in major cities to help curb pollution will not apply to power plants, traders and utility sources said, exempting a sector responsible for half the country’s coal use.
China said on Monday that from 2015 it would restrict the production, consumption and import of coal with high impurity levels in a bid to fight smog, much of which is caused by using coal for heating and electricity.
The government set three new quality thresholds, with the most stringent requirement banning the use of coal with more than 16 pct ash and 1 percent sulphur content in key population centers like Beijing and the Yangtze river delta region.
Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Japan Times:
Tainted water problems still plague Fukushima, despite some positive signs
To improve the situation, Tepco has been taking steps to reduce the daily buildup of tainted water and to empty the filled trenches running beneath it.
One of those steps, the so-called groundwater bypass, finally began showing progress this week. The bypass is designed to reduce the amount of groundwater merging with tainted water from the plant by pumping it up beforehand and discharging it into the sea.
Other steps have proved unsuccessful, including a recent effort to build ice walls between two of the flooded turbine buildings and their trenches.
The mingling of the waters is a huge headache for Tepco: 400 tons of groundwater seep into the cracked reactor and turbine buildings every day. It then mixes with highly radioactive water in the flooded basements of reactors 1, 2 and 3, which were hit by the meltdowns, and increases the overall volume.
The Asahi Shimbun encounters obstacles:
TEPCO struggling to win approval of fishermen over water-discharge plan
Local fishermen are crying foul over Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s latest plan to discharge processed contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.
TEPCO and the central government held the first explanatory briefing over the plan on Sept. 18, seeking to win the approval of fishermen operating in southern Fukushima Prefecture.
Their explanation was apparently unconvincing. “I can’t believe anything TEPCO says,” one of the attendees said after the meeting.
The Asahi Shimbun stays the course:
Outgoing NRA commissioner insists safety screenings for reactors were fair
An outgoing commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority rejected criticism from the pro-nuclear community, saying the safety screenings for restarting the nation’s idled nuclear reactors were conducted in a fair manner.
“No part of the safety screening process was strict,” Kunihiko Shimazaki, whose two-year tenure as deputy chairman of the nuclear watchdog ended on Sept. 18, told reporters. “Everything was done in a sensible manner.”
Another commissioner, Kenzo Oshima, a former diplomat, left the post the same day.
Shimazaki, a seismology specialist, proved a thorn in the side of power utilities with his calls for reassessing the potential force inflicted by seismic waves and tsunami upon nuclear plants.
NHK WORLD disposes:
Govt. aims to begin waste transport in January
Japan’s environment minister says the government wants to start transporting radioactive waste produced by the Fukushima nuclear accident to interim storage facilities in Fukushima next January as scheduled.
Yoshio Mochiduki said on Friday that the government wants to proceed with preparations for the transport quickly, and it has no plan to change the target date.
The government started studying transportation routes and negotiations with landowners after the Fukushima government agreed earlier this month to build the facilities in the prefecture.
For our final item, NHK WORLD opposes:
Towns vote to block radioactive waste dumps
The assemblies of 2 towns north of Tokyo have voted unanimously to block or limit the construction of final disposal sites for radioactive waste in their towns.
Kami Town in Miyagi Prefecture and Shioya Town in Tochigi Prefecture have both been named by the central government as candidate sites for the facilities.
Sludge, ash, and other waste containing more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive materials per kilogram are to be permanently stored at the sites.
The government plans to build such facilities in 5 prefectures near Fukushima, where the 2011 nuclear accident occurred.