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.

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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.