I watched a great documentary about Motown the other night, so please excuse the Marvin Gay reference. There is a lot going on at the moment. Let’s go through some things. Bear with me.

I recently read James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency“, and I’d thoroughly recommend you do too. It’s affecting my long-term goals and aspirations in a big way. To summarize, it’s about the passing of Peak Oil and what is likely to unfold. It makes for some scary reading, but it’s also serving to be inspirational. I might have to expand on this at some point… but not at the moment. More thinking and reading to do.

The USA’s Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden – in Pakistan. That’s a sovereign nation where the US military is not supposed to be operating. According to a spokesman, the US Special Forces currently operate in 75 countries, and that number is set to increase over the next year – to 120. It’s one thing to have a diplomatic presence in a country, but it’s something else to have an active military one – especially when you don’t notify the host government about what you’re up to. Will there be more operations? You betcha. Will that only serve to increase anti-American sentiment, when they should be considering pulling out of these sorts of situations? You can definitely count on that. For example, the USA recently signed a secret pact to stay in Afghanistan until 2024.

The US really should do something about its own record on human rights before tramping around the world telling everyone else they should enact their own human rights laws. But hey, when in the past 60 years hasn’t the US been tramping the world, telling people how they should live?

The unnofficial case against the Western protagonists of the Iraq War continues to build, with MI5 coming out saying they told Tony Blair Iraq was no threat to the West. Also Dick Cheney’s memoirs are out in which he continues to unapologetically defend his actions and policies. Can someone arrest these scumbags ASAP, please? There are more and more officials who would be willing to testify against them. Let’s do it! Oh, wait. Americans are now too distracted, too conditioned and too afraid to do anything. Also, the conservatives are busy setting up a gerrymander to keep as many potential Democrat voters out of the voting booth as they can. Looks like the real terrorists have won…

Alternet is becoming a go-to place for effective analysis of the American Republican Party’s policies and personalities as the 2012 election starts to gear up. Essentially, they’re all lying scumbags, but at least one can have a solid intellectual foundation for explaining why. Obama isn’t any better by the way. Ron Paul isn’t a viable option out of the crazies. If ever there was a time for a solid ‘third-way’ candidate to make a difference, this would be the time. I don’t expect it to happen though.

The new economic reality of America is changing the way people live and work. For example, here is a piece about Workampers. Nothing new, you might say, but it’s happening more and more as the US economy stalls big time. Here’s something else about how car washes are turning into sweatshops, along with chocolate factories, or how students in trouble are turning to that old standby, sex work.

The Eurozone is slowly moving towards a major existential crisis…

The Australian government tried to pass a law enabling them to send refugees arriving by boat to Malaysia for processing. That was shot down by the High Court. This article goes through the situation and some of the implications very nicely. Personally I’m very disappointed that the supposed left-wing Labour Party have ended up following the policies of the deposed conservative Liberal Party, in particular its 90s poster-boy, John Howard. Very disappointed indeed. Looks like the current PM could be headed to the chopping block since her criticisms of the decision have made her looking bitter, or in the words of the High Court, “‘irresponsible … extraordinary, unfair and curious”.

Woolworths and Coles are essentially the Walmart of Australia, with the recent price wars highlighting their dirty campaign to remove other brands from their shelves and replace them with their own ‘home brands’.

They’re talking the high-speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne again, again.

Oh, and quietly, Australia’s internet is now censored.

Moving back home is going to be quite interesting. It’s been ten yen years since I lived in Australia. Australia has always been a culture of haves and have nots – and the haves seem to become a bunch of over-indulged, whiny douchebags. It’ll be entertaining, at least…

But they are doing one thing right though. The Australian Government may soon pass laws that will, in effect, bankrupt the Scientologists. By legally defining the meaning of ‘charity’, they may be able to force the ‘church’ to back pay its workers millions of dollars, as well as the taxes owed on those wages.

An interesting look at the benefits of ‘lazy parenting’. I know it’s ironic that I’m a part of the industry responsible for the over-scheduling of children, depriving them of creative free time and the chance to enjoy their childhoods. However, I do believe that learning English is going to be become indispensable as global communication becomes a key for survival and prosperity in this current world. You can take your abacus-learning, flower-arranging and calligraphy clubs, along with your cram-schools and drown them in the sea for all I care about what good they’ll bring. (They reinforce a lot of negative attitudes that the Japanese have; namely Japanese exceptionalism, the culture of overwork, as well as teaching useless skills.)

With all the media’s attention focussed recently on the riots in London, someone or some group of people have been engaged in a campaign of torching luxury cars across Germany for some time now. Are there still areas of Paris that are set alight every summer, where the police fear to tread? The cities are becoming war zones…

Some more climate changey type things going on. The ice sheet on Greenland is starting to break up, with massive ice islands being calved and glaciers shrinking.

People in Japan always seem surprised when I tell them I hate Disney and everything about the Disney company. This article (and subsequent book) go a along way to explaining why. Essentially, Disney’s business model is based on targetting children – as young as six months old – in order to condition them to a certain world view, based on conformity to stereotypical roles and bland consumerism. If I ever have children, I will actively ban them from exposure to the Disney company, and if any friends give me anything for them from the Disney company, it will be burnt. Joyfully. Sorry.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has had a $1 million challenge for a number of years now. It’s getting pushed again since they’ve challenged some prominent media ‘psychics’ to prove their ‘ powers’ are real. One has made overtures, but we’ll see if any actually take on the skeptics. In her words, she’s the ‘real thing’ so she doesn’t have to worry about taking scientific tests to prove her abilities are real. Huh? I guess we just have to take her words for it. PLEASE don’t give these sorts of scumbags any money!!

As the military are always looking to get their mitts on the latest technology, you can be sure that invisibility cloaks will soon be coming to an army near you.

Lebowski.

So the world economy is not going to collapse at the hands of a few rich, power-hungry, self-serving minions of the powerful? Or maybe not. Moody’s doesn’t seem to think so. Watch this space. Actually, watch some others.

China would be a good example. This article explains why China’s economy may be more precarious than previously believed, and its demise may be a lot worse than the past few years’ American-led event.

Oh, and did the rich get even a small part of the bill? Did the politicians address the trillions being spent on useless wars in Asia? Was there any consideration for the real financial hardship faced by so many American people? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

The euro is still in danger.

The revolutions that swept the Middle East are going nowhere, fast.

I’m eating Aussie beef here, just in case you were wondering.

As I’ve noted before, the conflicts of the future will be over access to water, not oil.

Another quiet, but scary crisis is devolping over the world’s missing women. Increasing sex selection in favour of males has possibly led to as much as 163 million fewer women being born. That’s like erasing the entire female population of the United States, the entire population of Japan (and then some) or six Australias.

It’s no secret that Australia’s tourism industry is struggling. The number of incoming visitors has been falling some time due, in part, to the stronger Aussie dollar, a fall in hospitality standards and the increase in attractiveness of other destinations. Why the Australian government seeks to make the situation worse by cutting the number of customs and immigration staff is a mystery to many. Now incoming passengers will be expected to stand in line for around an hour – at least. Shooting itself in the foot? Think higher…

Another week rolls by and the injustices of the world continue to require our attention and vigilence.

An interesting look inside the Indian call centre industry. Yes, you may be annoyed with having to talk to an Indian on the phone, but also spare a thought for what they are going through as well. Direct your energy towards the companies and policies that cause jobs to go offshore, not the fact that this is a rare shot for thousands of poor people to make a ‘decent’ wage. Buy an answering machine to screen calls if you have to.

In Australia, the furor over the introduction of the carbon tax has overshadowed the reality for a lot of people that they are currently living through a recession, despite all the ‘official figures’ saying otherwise. There’s also the issue of the government shooting Australian internet users in the foot over wireless internet. A “prohibition on Telstra “promoting wireless services as a substitute for fibre-based services for 20 years” “!?!? 20 years ago – in 1991 – NO ONE had internet access in Australia. Not a single person. My university got internet in 1994. In twenty years the rest of the world will be downloading entire full-sensory movies into their minds to be experienced in all five senses, and the internet users of Australia will be clinging on to their legacy DVDs and Blu-Rays. Ridiculous.

This was an interesting piece looking at the underlying racism behind unemployment figures in the USA. One highlight of the piece was an experiment done where four types of job applicants applied for work and the reponse rate was measured. The worker types tested were all male, of similar age and educational background. The only differences were if the applicant was white or black, and if they were a felon or not. The white applicant without a criminal record achieved a 34% rate of callback and the white felon received a 17% rate of callback. What made the experiment devastatingly eye-opening were the callback rates for the black applicants: 14% and 5%. The white felon was preferred over the college-educated black man with a clean criminal record. The experiment’s results have been reproduced, so it seems apparent that racism, and a glaring disparity between blacks and whites, is still alive and well in the USA.

Despite what the American politicians say, the next election is all going to be about jobs. No one is talking about that giant elephant in the corner and while ‘austerity’ is the word in the air, you can bet your bottom dollar that the situation will not improve, which may well affect us all. You can certainly bet on cutting services to most Americans, whereas if just the top 25 hedge fund managers were forced to pay taxes like most ordinary Americans, they could cut the deficit by US$44 billion over the next ten years. That’s a lot of money to help fund actual policies that help actual people. Will it happen? Don’t bet on it.

The global situation over food, water, climate and energy continues to unravel. The wars of the 21st Century will continue to be about control of the world’s resources – that’s if the fundies don’t kill us all first.

Maybe North Korea is getting close to implosion since it can’t even feed its army any more.

This was a moment of journalistic beatup and hysteria-mongering that almost defied description. Victoria experinced a small earthquake that rattled some windows in Melbourne, so the next day The Age ran a story about how Victoria’s volcanoes were ‘overdue’ for eruption. The writer ignored most of the science on the issue (such as the hot spot under Mt. Gambier being well and truly dead) and focused on the law of averages as referred to by one single piece of research. It was scraping the bottom of the barrel in search of a story. Good fun to read though. 

Almost as entertaining, but not quite as harmless, the same newspaper (amongst others) ran a piece on how the next terror threat involved surgically implanted bombs. The Department of Homeland Security think the terrorists are getting their ideas from Batman movies and are going to set off bombs on planes by remotely detonating explosives hidden inside suicide bombers. I’m sure the terrorists are saying ‘thanks’ for the idea and we should all look forward to CT scan machines making an appearance at boarding gates before too long.

Oh, and I’ve said this for years, but now Cracked has picked up on the idea that major events in the War on Terror™ mirror Starship Troopers in no small way.

Sadly, a lot of “more of the same” on the global front. The rich and the powerful don’t seem to have enough money and power and are seeking to take as much as they can from everyone else. In other words, what’s new?

Look at Libya. Yes Gaddafi is a madman and a despot, but he also had Africa’s best interests at heart. As this article points out, he wanted to take Africa to a single currency, based on a gold standard. He wanted customers to pay for oil in gold, not dollars. He funded programs to free Africa from dominance by international corporations and organisations. If you’re thinking this sounds familiar, Saddam Hussein did a similar thing before being killed off. Also it looks like Dominique Strauss-Kahn was undermining the dollar by calling for a new global currency, before news surfaced of his arrest for assaulting a maid.

Take a look at Europe. Its policymakers are looking to extending the power of its financial institutions to taking over the governments of a member country if they can’t run things the way they like it. Watch out Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland….

Don’t forget America. As it slides slowly toward collapse, the President believes he’s above the law and able to order the assassination of anyone he likes, the government is destroying its education systemgiving itself more power than we are aware they have and fighting wars without end, the rich are taking everything they can, and destroying the country in the process.

News from China that in 2010 there could well have been over 180,000 protests and demonstrations. That’s an average of nearly 500 per day! Some have been quite large and violent. Seems like the Chinese growth machine isn’t helping a lot of people.

In Australia, while the media and politicians scramble over the treatment of illegal immigrants, the elephant in the room is the treatment of the Aboriginal population. You won’t read about it in the Murdoch press though, which owns most of the major daily newspapers. John Pilger at his best.

The Department of Homeland Security may soon be changing its name to the Ministry of Peace, since it is starting to roll out 1984-esque technology that is “designed to identify people who intend to commit a terrorist act”. That’s right: thoughtcrime.

It’s fairly well known that the state of the health of Americans is getting worse and worse. Having no access to decent health cover, hospitals and food is one thing, but the recent statistics show that life expectantcy in the USA is declining at a noticeable rate.

Before long, that may also have something to do with the Fukushima situation, which looks like it now ranks as the worst nuclear disaster of all time. ‘Hot particles’ of radioactive isotopes of strontium, caesium and even plutonium have been showing up in Tokyo and as far as the west coast of the USA. This article says that there has been a spike in infant mortality in the western US since the Fukushima nuclear plant entered meltdown.  There might be a link, there might not. The lack of coverage on the right-wing news might indicate that it is hooey, but then again, the Russian atomic energy agency is pointing out that a nuclear plant in Nebraska, currently in trouble due to floods, is leaking radiation. (Yes, that is ironic) The silence from the American news is deafening. The fact that the largest operator of nuclear facilities has very close financial ties to Obama may also have something to do with it. In March I said I wasn’t worried about the radiation from the disaster, but that was based upon what I knew at the time. I refused to be drawn into the speculation and panic going on. Now, I am even reconsidering plans to travel to Tokyo for a holiday. I know I’m going to die some day, but I don’t want it to be from cancer caused by a stray particle of plutonium that I could have avoided by staying on this side of Japan.

Here was something interesting, stemming from a German report that the nuclear workers in Japan are disproportionally drawn from the ‘rejects’ of Japanese society, for example, the homeless and the burakumin.

Meanwhile, radiation has started appearing in crops of green tea. This happened in Shizuoka which is a) one of the largest tea growing areas in Japan, and b) west of Tokyo – supposedly a long way upwind of the evacuated nuclear-devastated areas surrounding Fukushima. The Japanese tea industry’s response was worry that people might switch to other forms of tea. Gee, thanks fellas. Keep up the good work.

It might be more expensive to get anything to eat as commodity speculation is pushing up food prices again, along with population growth, environmental destruction and (maybe) climate change. Coffee isn’t immune either, with the cost of raw green beans doubling in the past year.

The humble consumer can’t do much. Even hailed ‘environmentally friendly’ products such as those tagged as ‘biodegradable’ turn out to contribute to the problem. They often end up in landfill where they release methane.

Maybe we aren’t heading for another mini-Ice Age. Maybe we are. Maybe we’re heading for a time of much hotter weather. Maybe we aren’t. I’m with Ernst Mayr, George Carlin and Bill Hicks on this issue now. Carlin said, that the planet is fine – it’s had to deal with things much worse than us and it’s come back fine. Hicks said that if you’re truly a committed environmentalist, you should kill yourself and set the example for all of us to follow. More quietly, Ernst Mayr put forward the idea in a debate with Carl Sagan that intelligent life is perhaps a lethal mutation. I believe we’ve gone past the tipping point now and something is going to happen which will make life for humans much harder and a lot of people are going to die. The rich and powerful will still have access to their caviar and fine wine, so they won’t care – and since they don’t, who else will?

One problem with all this going on is that we’re all too busy to notice. We’re either working way longer hours, trying to multi-task and failing miserably in the process, or so busy looking over our shoulders in case someone tries to steal our jobs that we can’t work effectively. Stress is a killer. If you’re too busy to watch what the rich and powerful are doing – and are dying in the process – then they’re free to continue doing what they want.

Today in “My Religion Is Crazier Than Your Religion” News: A poor dog is in danger from a Jewish rabbinical court due to the belief that it is the reincarnation of a lawyer cursed by the same court twenty years ago.  Religion is certainly a great moneyspinner though – just look at the crazies who predicited the end of the world earlier this month. They’d raised more than US$100 million in just the past seven years – tax free. I’m in the wrong business.

Just when the world went and got itself a dose of healthy optimism with a royal wedding (despite what you think about it, at least it was a positive news story), it had to turn back to darkness with the death of Osama Bin Laden. There was a Martin Luther King misquote that got started on Twitter and made its way to Facebook very quickly. Although I agreed with the sentiment expressed in the (mis)quote, it’s worth reading through this article on science hoaxes to put it into context.

Of course the conspiracy theories began swirling around, almost before Bin Laden’s body met the inky depths of the ocean. One word that has been used a fair bit by the US Government, as well as bandied about on the internet is ‘justice’. This old-world, wild west notion of justice concerns me, as it does a number of people. Despite Bin Laden’s alleged links to 9/11, extrajudicial killings are illegal under international law. The US government is shimming and shamming its way out of it by saying he tried to defend himself but reports are coming out (from sources such as Bin Laden’s daughter who was present during the raid) that Bin Laden was unarmed, taken alive, then executed by the special forces. They’re also claiming that he was an enemy combatant, so it was justified, but he was an international criminal, not a soldier. The legal linguistic gymnastics look set to continue for while to come. The sea of information and disinformation also looks set to widen and deepen, so what truth there is to the situation looks set to be lost anyway. I am not confident we will ever really know the truth about this.

One thing is certain, Bin Laden is going to be very much a prescence in US foreign policy for a long time to come. His assassination certainly played into his hands, and his legacy is certain to continue into the future. Geoffrey Robertson hit it right on the head, as usual, and Tom Engelhardt is always good to read for an insight into the bigger picture.

Oh, and it’s worth repeating, but you you’re really interested to know what the US government thinks about truth and free speech, then look at what happened to Ray McGovern. He was arrested and beaten up by security thugs for staging a silent protest at a Hillary Clinton speech – the one where she defended the right to free speech in Egypt, but obviously not to Americans – especially in a plutocracy. Oh, and Mr. McGovern used to work for the CIA.

That whole Libya thing is looking dodgier and dodgier by the day. Not so much about bringing peace and democracy and about getting their hands on (surprise!) oil, Libya’s sovereign funds as well as those funds to rebuild the pulverized country.

How’s that Guantanamo place going? Still a bastion of degradation and ongoing torture? Good… nothing to see here. Oh, and how’s Bradley Manning, by the way? Being treated as a citizen of the US..? No? Oh, how about as a human bei…. No? How about as an animal? No? Worse than that? Oh – nothing’s changed then. Congrats Obama, you’re a monster in my book. If they can’t schedule a war crimes trial for George W., maybe they will for you.

And since the next US election isn’t until next November, it’s time for the pundits to start lining up. One thing for sure is that the Republicans are going to make American Decline their theme, somehow trying to avoid bringing up that it happened on the watch of the last Republican president. How are they going to do that? Well, for a start, by bringing up as many crazy early candidates as they can, so by the time they get around to choosing someone seriously, they’ll look quite sane in comparison. Johann Hari’s excellent article in The Independent sums up the situation most elegantly. I love the opening paragraph, so I’ll quote it in full for you:

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.

Fatsen your seatbelts, it’s going to be a looong ride – maybe not so bumpy, but hopefully entertaining.

The last combat veteran of World War One has passed away. Claude Choules served with the Royal Navy in WW1 then for Australia in WW2. He passed away aged 110. There is one more veteran of the war left, a British woman, Florence Green, who served in a non-combat capacity. She is also 110. We shall remember them.

Of course the idea of ANZAC Day is remember the fallen and to hope for no more wars. It is not to continue Australia’s role as a supplicant to the USA. Australia’s current prime minister, who is starting to look more and more like John Howard as the days pass, may well have been installed to continue US interests. Just who are we serving?

Not each other, according to this article. It made me sad to think of returning to Australia…

Australia’s not the only country joining the ranks of the Bush copycats. I see Canada has now joined the ranks.

As the situation in Fukushima continues, it’s worthwhile remembering the world’s worst nuclear reactor disaster in Chernobyl. Here’s a piece about one of the photographers who went in to document the disaster in the midst of deadly radiation.

Skynet is with us, but don’t worry, those HD cameras are great for taking footage of surfing….

China’s economy is still growing strong, and it looks set to overtake the US in as soon as 2016 according to the IMF.

But, we’re running out of stuff. Not only are we running out of manual typewriters, we’re also running out of oil; not only the black stuff, but the oil we need to eat. We’re also running short of food, fresh water, helium, chocolate, medical isotopes, tequila and phosphorus. Stuff like tequila and chocolate we could probably reluctantly get used to, but no medical istopes means no cancer treatments, no phosphorus means no food, and no water, well, that’s pretty obvious.

With the buzzword being ‘cloud computing’ these days, it’s worthwhile thinking about the possibility of hackers having a field day, or perhaps they already are, right Sony?

An English teacher working in Australia won a case against unfair dismissal recently. That’s a good thing, especially when you consider his ‘crime’ was to teach a class of adults on the correct use of the ‘F’ word. In my opinion, if you’re going to participate fully in Australian society, a comprehensive knowledge of when to use – and not use – that word should be mandatory! 

Yahoo calls out the ten most overrated tourist destinations and, more importantly, gives alternatives. Some of  these I had absolutely no intention at all of going to, but it’s good to learn about other places that are equally awesome. You might also want to check out the site at Angkor Wat before it disappears under the heels of a million tourists. I went there a couple of years ago and aside from the central complex and Angkor, I’d recommend you take a few days and see the other temples around the area; there are far fewer tourists, fewer pedlars, often better preserved architecture, and a chance to help the locals more by shopping where they shop.

So when is a kilo not a kilo?

Einstein’s theories have been proved, yet again.

A list of names for things you knew had a name but didn’t know what they were.

One of the interesting things about living in an information age is that one simply doesn’t have to die. It is the stuff of science fiction to transpose one’s personality into a computer and to continue ‘living’ as a machine, but in the past, in order to achieve immortality one had to be a Hemingway or a Shakespeare, a Monroe or a Dean, a Warhol or a Picasso. Now, thanks to the available technology, our writings, videos, music and musings can live as long as the server permits. I came across this blog post, of one Derek Miller, who recently died from cancer. It is a marvellous, poignant and inspiring piece of prose. Even though the man is dead, his work can live forever, and thereby so can he. What an age we live in!

Enjoy it while you can.

There’s been a lot going on this month. April is always busy here in Japan, plus I had my mother visit, which was great, but really filled up my weekends. So I have a pile of links and random threads to thrust upon the world-wide-web. Strap in. Take a ride.

In TV, it’s great to see that Red Dwarf will be back for another season. I hope it’s a little better than the last expedition; Back To Earth. I found that one laid on the pathos and sentiment a bit too thinckly for my tastes. I hope they get back to the energy and wit of some of the earlier seasons.

Even though the situation in the Ivory Coast has been (in one sense) resolved, I’m sure the situation there, as in a lot of combat zones, is just simmering. I noticed that fighting has flared up again along the Thai/Cambodian border.

The situation at Fukushima continues to evolve on a daily basis. Declaring the disaster zone to be as bad as Chernobyl was pretty alarming. While the situation there isn’t good, at least it is relatively under control.

A major issue in Japan this year will be the customary summer loading as everyone turns on their airconditioning. It’s not unusual for Japanese homes to have 4 or 5 units PER HOUSE as ducted airconditioning is something of a rarity. Couple that with trying to boost industrial output back to pre-earthquake levels with four missing reactors’ worth of electricity probably will mean a lot of blackouts from the system overloading. It’s interesting to see that Sony, amongst other companies, have adopted a daylight saving system to try to offset that loading. I wonder if that will lead to the eventual adoption of daylight saving here. It seems quite logical since dawn in midsummer is at about 4am. 

The numbers of people who have left Japan are quite staggering. 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11 quake, 244,000 in the first week. I don’t know how many have returned, like some friends of mine, since the situation has calmed down. More than half of those who left had re-entry permits. It’s expected that the number of travellers during this Golden Week (starting April 29th) will be down around a quarter this year. The number of foreign visitors was down 50% in March from the year earlier. Coupled with the theme of ‘self-restraint’ running through Japan at the moment (The number of Japanese going overseas was down nearly 20% for the same time period), means it’s going to be a tough time for tourism. It is good to see some proactive Japanese doing their bit though. You do need to come here. There is much more to Japan than Tokyo.

With Australian schools losing science programs and the curriculum in general failing to deal with the country’s position at the dawn of the Asian Century,  it’s interesting to read about why Finland does so well. Hint: it involves students having a life and very little homework or standardised testing. It was interesting to read about the technology making its way into universities, although I wonder how much it is helping boost academic levels, or just giving students a way to do their social networking mid-lecture…

There’s also concern at this Easter-time of how the secularisation of the education system may bereft the new generations of contact with older culture simply because they don’t understand where the stories came from. Now, I may not be the most holy of people, but I do appreciate the value of having learned about religion, at least from a cultural and philosophical standpoint. I would support the non-prosthelatising education of chldren about all religions in order to give them the necessary background for understanding where their culture has come from. The problem is most religious eduacation in Australia is done by one Christian organisation, who see their role as a mission. That doesn’t help. I htink any religious education should (at least) include Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and pagan religions. These form the basis of our culture and serve to help us understand the major cultures Australians may have to deal with. Ignorance boosts hatred. At least a bit of education may help people understand and tolerate each other a bit.

Go to China, catch a highly contagious AIDS-like disease?

Some cool stuff to finish with.

Here’s a neat idea for a photoset: A Girl And Her Room.

Photos of TVs At The Moment They Turn Off – I have new wallpaper.

A British cloud-chasing photographer takes awesome nature photos.

People took a lot of nice photos of the recent ‘supermoon’.

Sock Puppet Army is a new (for me) webcomic that’s great for anyone who’s worked in hospitality.

Spy satellites are really helping archaeology along.

A scientist from MIT may have created an ‘artificial leaf’ to  generate solar power at 76% efficiency. In scientific terms that’s known as ‘bloody amazing’. It’ll probably disappear, along with this highly efficient internal combustion engine.

Life on Earth may be a lot more diverse than we realised with scientists finding evidence of another domain of life (the current three are eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea. Use Google or Wikipedia you lazy sod, or just read the article)

Two words: plasma rocket.

Sherry – it’s not just for grandma any more.

The search for the mother of all languages is getting interesting.

Probably nothing much – I hope.

The rest of the world is providing some interest and entertainment – as well as a little concern. Let’s go through some recent goings on, starting with some things I’ve found concerning and troubling over the past couple of weeks.

Although many foreigners have left Japan, I am not, much for the same reasons as this guy. The cleanup is starting, but where to start? The hysteria over Fukushima continues, with the media seizing upon any vaguely sensationalist notion they can, when they really don’t need to. Papa needs a new lawnmower, I guess. I get my updates straight from the IAEA. The MEXT (Japanese government) information is available through this portal. The readings for my prefecture make for slightly amusing reading (“Non-Detectable” ad infinitum). One article postulated using thorium instead of uranium as a fuel for nuclear reactors. India are already experimenting with such devices, but having recently hit the Russians for uranium-driven reactors instead, we can wonder as to whether it really is a viable replacement or not…

Some good news from all this is that drinking red wine may protect you from the effects of radiation exposure – if you take the reservatrol from it and combine it with another chemical which you have to take BEFORE the radiation hits you… Oh well.

The crisis has definitely already started taking a toll on Japan’s auto industry.

Speaking of cars, it was interesting to read that the EU may be working to ban petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2050. Environmentally it makes sense, but the politics of such a move could get in the way…

Food. The cost of food is going up; in some cases by 50% in just a few years. For rich people it isn’t much concern, but if you’re living on less than US$2 a day like half the world’s population, it matter a great deal. Meanwhile, psychiatrists, in an effort to sell more drugs and services to a panicked population, have invented a new disorder entitled ‘orthorexia’, or ‘healthy eating disorder’. That’s right, wanting to eat healthy food is now an official anxiety requiring treatment.

In Africa, the situation in the Ivory Coast continues to teeter on the brink of full-scale war. No NATO interventions though, since they don’t have any oil. My friend, Dr. Phil Clark was interviewed recently about the situation in Sudan in the wake of the division of the country into two seperate nations.

The case for and against going into the Libya was a forgone conclusion as soon as the UN gave its go-ahead to no-fly zones, even though no-one was really quite sure what this all meant. Afterwards came stories of NATO bombing rebels and civilians – it’s always the civilians who bear the worst of the pain in any ‘humanitarian intervention’, right Iraq? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Now it looks headed for a stalemate, which will make it all drag on for months. Look for calls for the US to send in the troops – especially if Al Qaeda gets mentioned enough times, or the rebels end up being not so revolutionary. (“Just as long as they are our kind of revolutionary”) Obama’s rhetoric was seen as having a little too much of the George W’s about it – by (shock! horror!) Fox News. Do you think they’re finally catching on that Obama is really just another neo-liberal neo-con in disguise? Me neither, but Sarah Palin did.

Meanwhile, uprisings continue in Syria. Somewhere in a place called Afghanistan a guy named Karzai asked the US and NATO to leave the country.

At the same time – right at this moment – Bradley Manning is still in solitary confinement. Obama supports this ongoing torture of a US citizen, and the implications are profound for all of us who believe in free speech and basic human rights.

Australia is getting those cancer-causing airport full-body scanner machines – but with the promise that they won’t be the ‘naked’ types currently used in the US. I’m sure my growing melanoma will appreciate the privacy.