Less than three years after arriving in Japan, I developed an endocrine problem which caused my health to deteriorate. Through the years, I’ve had friends and acquaintances who have developed serious health problems, many of whom have died from cancer. I wondered why.

What was causing all the cancer? Is it in the green tea that most Japanese drink everyday? Is it in the fish they like to eat raw or cooked in some sugar and soy mixture? Is it in the air we breathe here? Is it in the water? I discovered the answer, and it appears to be all of the above — and more.

The carcinogenic substance that finds its way into the air, the drinking water, and the agricultural soil is dioxin, a toxin which is one of the end result of burning plastics and industrial wastes. One gram of dioxin is enough to kill an estimated 10,000 people, and the Japanese government has estimated yearly dioxin emission at a very conservative 5.3 kg (1998).

Japan has the highest dioxin emission in the world, and 90% of Japan’s dioxin emissions are generated from incinerators. About 70% of the world’s number of incinerators are concentrated in Japan. Tall incinerator towers dot cities here, and depending how the wind blows, dioxin is carried in the air to pollute these cities. In a test done on mothers living down-wind of an incinerator, some have been advised to reduce breast-feeding.

Dioxin finds its way into agricultural soil through agrochemical and herbicide use; and eventually, in the vegetables we eat here. In 1999, dioxin-tainted vegetables were discovered. Aside from vegetables, fish from Tokyo Bay were found to contain unusually high levels of dioxin, a result of these agrochemicals. Aside from causing cancer, dioxin is an endocrine inhibitor which alters the functions of hormones.

But there are also other sources of toxic contamination. Japan has limited natural resources, and the Japanese have resorted to recycling household water by chemically treating it in order to make it potable again. Many years ago, I was watching the News on television and they showed some politicians drinking water recycled from the toilets, telling the public that it was safe to drink. What are those chemicals and to what extent can these be detrimental to our heath? Some of my visiting friends from abroad have remarked that the tap water tastes like chlorine.

Many public baths still use wood to heat the bathing water. The wood used are chemically treated, and one such chemical is arsenic. There is a public bath near my house, and depending how the wind blows, the nauseating smoke coming from their chimney enters through the windows of my house. Just breathing this invisible smoke induces vomiting.

Another cultural tradition is the Japanese penchant for packaging that is pleasing to the eye. The amount of paper, plastic and cardboard wastage that goes into packaging a gift is huge. The Japanese are so very fond of gift-giving, so much so they have two seasonal gift-giving traditional times, one in August and the other at the end of the year. And that’s aside from the many other occasions which requires a gift. A Japanese female friend of mine said that she had to purchase 50 boxes of chocolates, an “obligatory gift” in her company to male employees on Valentine’s day.

Benzene and nitrogen dioxide emissions from auto-mobiles are other air pollutants worth mentioning. The pollution situation still falls short of environmental standards, and it doesn’t help that the Japanese have a nasty habit of letting their cars run idle, often for long periods of time.

I’m sure the Japanese government is doing what it can to reduce the toxic pollution, and who am I to say what they should or should not do. Seemingly obvious solutions like a culture re-think: the over-packaging for a start, or the use of other means than burning wood to heat baths, if public baths are really that necessary. Re-usable chopsticks, instead of the wooden disposable type would go a very long way to conserve trees and obviously reduce the amount of incinerated garbage. But what stands out as an apparent remedy that perhaps has more to it than meets my simple eye (like logistics), is to re-locate the incinerators outside of cities.

But we shouldn’t leave it only to the government to find solutions. We have a very major role to play in reducing the carcinogens in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Sort your household garbage, and make sure plastics are not included in the “burnable” bin. Use canvas bags or any bag which you can re-use to carry your groceries. Find ways to contribute to reducing wastage and controlling pollution. The life you save may be your own.

Cancer is the major cause of death in Japan, but it is a subject of discussion considered taboo among the Japanese. I had asked my doctor what caused my endocrine system to go haywire, and he replied “I don’t know.” If they could just change another culture-think, examine the implications of being labelled the “Dioxin Capital of the World,” then they would know the root cause of cancer in Japan.

———–

References:
Dioxin Levels High in Incinerator-Happy Japan
Dioxin Found Deadly for Sure
In Japan’s Burnt Trash, Dioxin Threat
Tokyo Metropolis: No Time to Waste
Air Pollution Not Improving

See also:
Presentations at International Conferences
(see articles by Shigeki Masunaga on his research on dioxin pollution in Japan)
Low Carbon Economy

The Washington Post: Japan Staunches Stench of Mass Trash Incinerators

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loaded-truck-bis.jpg Sail forth and rule the world! and so the old Masters had ordered. The nations conquered became colonies of the colonialists. Let’s mention a few of them: Singapore, Hong Kong, and Burma were under the British Empire; Nova Scotia in Canada, Louisiana, and the West Indies under France; and from one of the largest Empires, Spain had the Philippines, Mexico and some African states.

While these states have become independent nations, with its native population in control of their government, there were other types of “sailing forth” and not for the reason of “rule the world.”

We all know our history that Columbus, in search of a different route to India, came across America. The native American Indians, whose land it was, were decimated and became secondary citizens on their own land.

Occurring in another part of the world, Great Britain’s search for a far-away place to dump its social ingrates, decided on Australia. The Aborigines, whose land it was, likewise became secondary citizens to a population of inmates of Britain’s prisons.

Present day “sailing forth” has come to be defined as exploitation of a nation’s natural resources. This we see in America’s exploitation of oil-rich nations.

But there is an insidious “third sailing forth” — not a sanctioned incursion by foreign governments, but rather, an economic incursion by individual people. They do not mobilize themselves in groups. They come on their own as economic immigrants.

One nation has done just that to a sovereign country. What is surprising is that the sovereign country is absolutely unaware of the incursion that has happened.

You see, what the conquering people did was to look for a nation of lazy people, who are content with the bones thrown at them, never wishing to improve their lot. They found it and its people have long been characterised as indolent, which they blame on religion (come what may, Someone is looking after me) and the heat of the sun.

Unfortunately for this lazy nation, they are also dis-united, by language* and culture. Their culture was destroyed by the first conquering Empire, who also kept them illiterate and taught them to be subservient. This Empire was then followed by a second one, more aptly described as an exploiter rather than an empire, who taught them english and to be beholden to their power.

The conquering people integrated, but they still kept their culture and their history. They continued to speak their native tongue among themselves in the conquered country, while speaking the conquered nation’s own. They excelled in private enterprise. They are leaders, not followers.

The conquering people then took over the economy. Two** of the three billionaires of this nation are from this conquering people. The third billionaire*** is from another country. There are no indigenous billionaires. The conquering people have become leaders in almost every sector of the conquered nation’s economy.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, the conquering people here are the Chinese, and the conquered nation is the Republic of the Philippines. They are called Filipino-Chinese, but they are Chinese all the same.

————-

* Between 100-150 languages and dialects spoken
** Henry Sy (US$3.1Billion), Lucio Tan (US$1.5Billion)
*** Jaime Zobel de Ayala (US$1.2Billion)

Millionaires:
Andrew Tan US$700M
Tony Tan Caktiong US$690M
John Gokongwei US$680M
Eduardo Cojuanco US$610M

birefringence-150.jpg “Yaw, guess what? I’ve just figured out why bad things happen to good people.”

“Bad things happen to bad people, too, you know Mog.”

“Oh, that’s understandable and that’s the way it should be. But bad things happening to good people, that’s abnormal. We have innocent men, women and children dying in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. We have many innocent detainees being tortured at Guantanamo. Innocent people being accused of crimes they didn’t commit, like the lady who was falsely accused by airport personnel of having a bomb in her shoes.

“No… there’s something not right with the world, Yaw, and I’m trying to understand why that is. I think I’ve figured it out.”

“Is it karma? Because they were bad in their before-life, they’re taking the punishment for it now?”

“But isn’t that unjust? Here you are in the after-life, trying to be good and you get punished for something you can’t even remember? I don’t think karma is a reasonable explanation for that, Yaw. And what about the good things happening to bad people? How do you explain that? Karma?”

“So what is it then, Mog? Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“I think it has something to do with physics. Opposites attract, therefore positive poles attract the negative. That explains why bad things happen to good people. They somehow ‘attract’ it.”

“And how do you think you can solve the abnormality of that, Mog?”

“Well, there must be a way to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow… like polarising the positive against its direction in order to repel the negative.”

“You’re obviously not a physicist, Dr Mog. You can’t attract two positive or two negative poles. The positive will always attract the negative, and the negative the positive.”

“Well then, what do you think can be done about this unfair situation? How can we stop the bad things happening to good people?”

“I wish I knew, Mog, but I absolutely have no idea…”

“Well, we could resort to the dumb expedient of becoming a bad guy in order to attract the positive. What about that?”

“That is not a solution, Mog.”

My Name is Earl
The Innocent Man at Guantanamo
US Military Fails to Distinguish Civilian from Insurgent in Iraq
Missing Presumed Tortured
Outlawed

pict-animal.jpeg “Yaw, how do you explain the mysterious phenomena of coincidences? Is there a natural explanation for these events?”

“Some religious philosophers have proposed a supernatural power behind it, Mog. Some scientists explain it in terms of physics or mathematical deductions, as in the concepts of probability. I suppose it all depends on how Man interprets the unexplainable. The world of imagination is limitless, Mog, and Man has created depositories of our ills.”

“Let’s be more specific, Yaw. Let’s say I bought a lottery ticket and won. Was I lucky, which many people often attribute to God, or was it because it was highly probable that I should win?”

“If you lost, Mog, would you blame God? The religious would often go through rituals, like praying, and explain the outcome of an event as a result of these prayers or lack of it.

“As for the probability of you winning, well let’s say 500 people bought tickets. The probability of you winning is one in 500, and all 500 have the same chance. There’s no mystery in that. It’s the same coincidence as 500 people stepping off the pavement at different times of the day, and you happen to be the one when a truck passes by.”

“That’s scary, Yaw…”

“A coincidence can happen to anyone, and there’s nothing special about you. It’s destiny. The unknown is scary for those who find no explanation for it, Mog. In their limited minds, they fight these terrors with whatever they have, and with Man’s capacity for wild imaginations, there are even those who create terror to explain terror.

“Take the Loch Ness monster. You have to think of the time in which these legends were created, Mog. The children of Scotland in the days of old were told that if they didn’t behave, the monster in Ness lake would gobble them up. And just because they found a 1st century carving of a strange animal on a Pictish stone, their wild imagination got the better of them and the monster at Ness lake, told in childhood stories, came into being.”

“I suppose it is the same interpretation for Hell in Christian religion, Yaw. Not knowing where we go when we die, children are taught that if they don’t behave, they will go to hell. I think people, especially parents should not take childhood for granted. Children do not understand or misunderstand all what is taught to them in childhood, and when they grow up, they are brainwashed adults who interpret or misinterpret these terrors.”

“And I don’t think an ant or a worm will wonder where they would go when they die, Mog. Only Man has imagination, and he imagines too much.”

“But Yaw, for what purpose is there to explain the unknown in fearful terms?”

“People and institutions have their agendas, Mog. There is still a lot of the unknown that the world of Science has to fathom. But in the meantime, the opium of the masses is the fallback. Give science time to explain the unknown, and when they do, you will wonder why you had been foolish enough to be scared.”

The Anthropic Coincidences: A Natural Explanation

witch.jpeg Have you ever had a string of bad luck and wondered what it was you’ve done to incur the anger of the gods, or asked yourself, why me? I consider myself a rational person, and I know that problems do not happen by themselves. But this has happened to me countless times, and I have wondered if witches do exist who cast bad spells out of spite or jealousy.

I was watching a documentary on French television the other day about a small village on the western coast of France. In this village, the inhabitants believe in the existence of the unknown.

When a bad spell is cast by the Unknown, the person or the place is in what they called the Negative Zone. The person or the place is exorcised of this spell through some incantations which sound like Christian prayers. These incantations must be a plea to stop from being the object of a Spirit’s mad desires. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, the bad luck disappears.

If the first dimension is life and the second dimension, death, then a “third dimension” must exist–a space where “spirits” live and who have the power to change the course of events in people’s lives according to their whims. But whatever it is, this negative zone and the unknown… what I really would like to know is: Why?

napoleon.jpg France has many serious problems. I believe that foremost among these are their government’s socialist policies and the long-term effects of their colonial exploits in French-Algeria.

During the Socialist era, a number of policies were implemented, one of which was the heavy social security tax (about 42% paid for by employers on each employee salary). This tax was used to “reward” the unemployed and the middle class with generous social benefits. True, a government has to look after its people, but unfortunately, these benefits are not only too generous that the government and people’s taxes are hard-put to sustain them, but also these benefits have been exploited by the champagne socialists (the gauche caviar).

So you find the French are better paid to do nothing, because starting salaries are less than what the government gives to the unemployed. You will find the French going on strikes and demonstrating against any adverse reforms on these benefits. Ultimately, the working class are the losers because jobs are few and ill-paid, employers being constrained with financial and government limitations. There is an uncommonly high unemployment in France.

The other issue is the immigrant problem. Algeria was a French colony, and like most colonialists, the French took advantage of the natural resources of the country and treated its citizens as inferiors. The French government improved Algeria’s infrastructure and implemented modernising changes, but what the French government did and what the French as people did in Algeria were two different matters.

The French people exploited the Algerians, alienating them. Algerians rebelled, began to clamour for independence and set up the FLN, the National Liberation Front. When de Gaulle proposed a referendum, asking Algeria if they wanted independence, the colonialists French who were against independence, set up the OAS, a terrorist organisation whose objectives not only included a hostile stance towards Algerians, but also to bring down the French government. The brutality of this organisation which involved the slaughter of Algeria’s civil population, is unprecedented.

Many Algerians fled across the Mediterranean sea to France. They constitute the largest immigrant class in the country. Many of them were granted French citizenship, but they are stigmatised all the same. And like the French lower social class, they also take advantage of the benefits of socialist policies. They are resented for this even more.

It would take a very complex solution to solve these two issues. The French have a penchant for paralysing infrastructure by going on strikes. If labour syndicates were limited in certain capacities from doing this, then socialist policies can finally be reworked on. This will require a firm hand, and absolutely necessary to unspoil a spoiled class of people. But we do not wish for a government dominated by the rich, but neither do we wish a government shackled by the poor.

There is a law against racism in France, but however overt this is, racism is widely practised. Education could be the key for both sides. Algerians must be taught to adapt to French culture. The French must learn to be more understanding of their plight.

Oh, if it were only as effortless as it sounds…

————

To extraordinary circumstances we must apply extraordinary remedies.
— Napoleon Bonaparte

On this day, the 3rd of October 1993, a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Mogadishu by gun-toting civilians. The mission of the American Army’s Delta Force and the Ranger Infantry was to capture two top men working under the Somalian warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

But the mission went terribly wrong. In what was estimated to take half an hour, the shooting down of two helicopters extended their time to well over the following day. A Somali man with a camcorder recorded American soldiers tied at the feet being dragged in the streets of Mogadishu.

What happened in Somalia, in what began as a humanitarian effort to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population from starvation and poverty under Aidid, resulted in a cautionary stance in America’s foreign policy with regards to intervening into foreign local war zones.

One might now question the reason for America’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, as if the lesson in Somalia went unheeded. While the mission in Mogadishu was a humanitarian effort by both the United Nations and the United States, there is a sinister reason for that of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Defining Battle, by Mark Bowden