Update On The Japan Earthquake And Nuclear Crisis

Update via email received from a reporter friend-

This past week, I have sat through countless renditions of the question
‘what is the worst case scenario of the Fukushima crisis’? I’ve
also heard more or less identical answers from Japanese government
officials facing foreign reporters, diplomats and academics: we are
doing our best, the situation could still get worse, and even outright
evasion. But tonight, at a special briefing convened by METI’s Nuclear
and Safety Agency at the Foreign Press Centre (I sneaked in), I heard
something special: the deputy director general of the agency saying that
he did not envisage the situation getting worse. I turned around and
looked at the Wall Street Journal bureau chief sitting behind me, and we
both nodded: this was significant. It confirmed the lull that seemed to
descend on Friday. Friday was in contrast to the other days because
there were no dramatic incidents: no fires, explosions or spikes in
radiation. All the happened Friday was a continuation of the fire
fighting activity, with the emphasis switched from helicopters flying
overhead and dumping water, to water cannon.

The more cynical of the journalists believed that this Friday calm was
artificial – that it was the government putting a cap on the information
being disclosed. Thus, the NYT report this morning was as negative as
ever in its assessment of the situation. I cannot check the London
Times, as it’s behind a pay wall, but one of their extremely
intelligent and capable journalists who attended the briefing also
seemed reluctant to believe the situation had improved. He is a vehement
critic of TEPCO, and it’s possible he cannot bear to allow them any
credit for any improvement.

Another bright spot is that TEPCO now seems firmly out of the picture.
The TEPCO staff is now vastly outnumbered by the combined forces of the
SDF, Police and Tokyo Fire Brigade, with their special trucks and teams.
A headquarters has been set up close to the plant, with some US experts
in attendance, and all under the supervision of a senior official from
METI. TEPCO’s role is now limited to providing the detailed technical
information on the plant necessary for the rescue workers to do their
jobs.

My sense is that the situation is still incredibly dangerous – it
would be madness to deny that, given that THREE sets of fuel rods in
three reactors are exposed – but I feel that we are moving into a new
phase. This involves an expensive, dirty and fiendishly difficult war to
turn three mountains of radio active waste into something that people
can live on, or at least around. It took months to fix Chernobyl
(indeed, Chernobyl has a permanent exclusion zone around it), and it
could take even longer to fix Fukushima. However, finally, we are seeing
a real array of overwhelming force arrayed against the reactors.
I heard some inside information on what turned the situation around.
According to an eccentric but very brilliant source of mine (who is
right about half the time!), the turning point in tackling the disaster
was the emperor’s speech earlier this week, when he highlighted the
gravity of the situation. According to this source, it was the Yukiya
Amano, the Japanese head of the international nuclear watchdog, the
IAEA, who played a key role in all of this. Indeed, Amano comes from an
extremely well connected and aristocratic background. He could see
immediately that TEPCO could not cope on its own, and had to be shifted
out of the picture. He therefore approached the powerful Imperial
Household agency, and advised them strongly to allow the emperor to make
a public appearance. It was this atavistic appeal, said my source, which
galvanized the SDF to put their lives on the lines, and fly their
helicopters through the Fukushima radiation. It was the emperor’s plea
which also cut through the bureaucratic red tape and energised Japan’s
warring bureaucrats and politicians to work together. Plus ca
change…!

Finally, where does it put all of us, regarding the decision of when to
return to our offices? It may take a few days for confidence to return.
I know that many Western firms have closed down for the coming week as
well. ‘One swallow does not make a spring’
is a proverb worth bearing in mind at this point.

Could Get Interesting In Japan- Key Congressmen Call For Pullout Of U.S. Forces From Japan

This could get really interesting in Japan if they do get the US troops out of the nation. Although, the Japanese government/people shoulder about 50% of the costs according to what we hear.

Are we at the end of the American Empire?

Quoted here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Key Congressmen Call For Pullout Of U.S. Forces From Japan
WASHINGTON (Kyodo)–Two veteran U.S. congressmen have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Japan amid the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.

Ron Paul
”It’s becoming a financial issue,” Ron Paul, a Republican House of Representatives member from Texas, said in a recent interview with Kyodo News, indicating that maintaining U.S. forces in Japan has become a financial burden for Washington.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat member from Ohio, said in a separate recent interview with Kyodo News, ”The United States truly cannot afford to construct the new base in Okinawa. Nor can it afford to have a military presence across the globe.”

Kucinich and Paul are heavyweights in the House, and both have experience of seeking the presidency. Paul, an advocate of isolationism, is supported by conservatives, while Kucinich is popular as one of the most liberal figures among the Democrats.

Last week, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff unveiled their latest National Military Strategy report pledging to maintain a strong U.S. military presence in northeast Asia for decades.

Some members of Congress say it is important for the United States to keep forces in Japan as China’s military presence is growing in the region while North Korea continues to act provocatively.

The two lawmakers, however, are opposed to continued stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.

”China’s interested in making money, not war,” Kucinich said.

Paul argued Tokyo should end its dependence on U.S. forces for its defense, saying, ”It’s time for Japan to assume all of their own responsibilities.”

He also dismissed the view that U.S. forces in Japan serve as deterrence, saying this is an ”excuse” to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region.

”For a long time I was probably the only one” who proposed such a view, he said, adding, ”Now we’re getting more support.”

Kucinich is also critical of the current U.S. military strategy. ”We don’t have the money to be the policemen of the world. And we should stop pretending that we do,” he said.

Describing the U.S. military bases in Japan as ”really part of a bygone era,” Kucinich urged the two countries to move away from a relationship prioritizing military cooperation.

”We have a strong friendship with Japan. That friendship is not dependent on a military presence,” he said.

Both Paul and Kucinich said they can understand the feeling of local people in Okinawa Prefecture where a host of U.S. bases are located. Local opposition remains strong against a plan to relocate a U.S. base within the prefecture.

”What if China wanted a base in New York City? We’d be furious,” Paul said.

The problem in Okinawa is not U.S. Marine troops but ”the people in Washington that send them there,” Kucinich said, adding, ”This is an issue that Congress must take up with the White House so that we can make sure that the concerns of the residents of Okinawa are taken into consideration.

Instant Americans, Japan And Korea

We see many Korean and Japanese couples going to the US to birth their babies. It seems Hawaii is the favorite destination with many Japanese experienced. The motivation is to get their children US citizenship.

In Japan and Korea, you have to be born of Korean or Japanese parents to have the citizenship of that country. In the US it is called Birthright Citizenship. It looks like things might change. Check out the articles here.

Apple Expands It’s Software Business

Today, US time, Apple will be opening their App Store for Mac.

They’ve got it for the iPhone, iPads, and other iOS devices but this marks the first time you can buy apps for your OSX devices.

What are the implications?  Are they trying to control the market?  It seems they will certainly become the middleman.  Let’s see how it goes.

You can check out their store here.

Playing the Pirates Marketing Game

Disney has done an excellent job of creating a fad.  The Pirates of the Caribbean advert promoting there move demonstrates the marketing power they have.  They turned a theme park ride into a multi-million dollar brand.  Probably why we saw people wearing all sorts of clothing designed with skull and crossbones integrated in the material in 2010.  A bit morbid…

This advert in the subway stairwell in Ginza promotes the new movie and their website and probably costs them about $3000 USD.  It is promoting Pirates of The Caribbean 4- On Stranger Tides to be releases in March 2011.

It will be interesting to see how long this fad can hang on.  Evidently someone is buying it.