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.

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Yay, I’m back for who-knows-how-long… For those who aren’t in the know; I have a bad back. To be precise I have two herniated disks in my L4 and L5 lumbar. So that means from time to time they go nuts on my spinal cord and I can’t do simple things like sit or walk. I had an operation once to fix this problem when I was 24 but the problem resurfaced a few years later. I could have another operation but the time needed for recovery is rather large so it’s just not an option at the moment.

So in practice what that meant was I had to spend a week in bed, which wasn’t as exciting or romantic as it sounds. Thank goodness I have a Macbook and an almost endless stream of movies to watch, not to mention the free wireless access through some kind neighbour’s unsecured network!

The funny/sad thing about all this is now I share my bed with a Macbook. Does that means I’m now cursed to never have a girlfriend ever again? At least I don’t live in my parents’ basement…

Another upshot is that the update I had in the works is now hopelessly out of date. But it’s refreshing to note that apart from a couple of celebrity deaths and a couple of aircrashes that nothing much has really changed in the news over the past few weeks – at least in the meta-stories that I follow…

I qualify for the free 12,000 yen from the Japanese Government! I have the form and will go down to the city office soon to stake my claim. No idea how I will choose to stimulate the economy… Any suggestions?

One interesting development in the Australian internet firewall fiasco is that iiNet has pulled out of testing the new system. They have cited the reason that the list clashes with their philosophy of supporting free speech and social responsibility. The list of banned sites was leaked onto Wikileaks and showed that the government was not just targetting child porn sites (the reason for the censorship) but also regular porn sites as well as some that discuss euthanasia, hate speech, even inocuous sites like that of a Queensland dentist. A big thimbs-up to iiNet for taking a stand, and hopefully if the other testers follow suit the government will have no choice but to abandon this ridiculous program.

You could also add the Australian government’s environmental program to the list of policies that need drastic overhauling. Rudd’s done a Howard and gone to ‘clean coal’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) instead of doing what the Europeans (and even Obama) are doing and that’s developing solar and wind energy.

Cracks are appearing in the mainstream media’s one-eyed hero-worship of Obama with a 60 Minutes interview taking the new President’s seeming callous attitude to the economic crisis to task. Public protests are also starting up across the country as it becomes clear that the bailout of the banks may well be doing more harm than good.

Obama’s empty rhetoric is justifyably getting an airing, and we need to keep supporting people researching what’s really going on behind the words of this charismatic man. Take closing Guantanamo for example. 200 or so of the prisoners (since they aren’t called ‘enemy combatants’ any more) are being moved to an expanded Bagram base in Afghanistan, where their situation won’t change. Another is the escalation in Afghanistan. Obama would do well to listen to the advice of the former Soviets – and that is, basically, don’t bother.

There was also the passing of legislation that could lead to the creation of a seven-million strong civilian “army” that could be drawn upon to keep the peace if the country goes to pot, or just become a default ‘draft’. This one can’t be blamed entirely on Obama as it’s been in the pipeline for ages, but it is happening on his watch, and with his approval.

One independent commentator is asking if Obama is really “dumber than a bag of hammers”. Another has declared that the USA has two solutions; either declare bankruptcy or start a war – a big one. That could well happen in Pakistan as the state looks to be very unstable at the moment – and they have nukes.

Regardless of the economic situation, Britain’s chief scientist has released a report claiming that due to food, water, energy and environmental problems getting out of hand, by 2030 the world is going to be in a desperate state, and people will respond by taking desperate actions.

With China and Russia calling for the world to abandon the US dollar as the default reserve currency, things are going to get very interesting indeed.

Meanwhile the top story in Australia the past couple of weeks has been over whether Pauline Hanson had nude pictures taken of her. No, I didn’t look, and I don’t think you should either (urrrgh!), but it gives you an idea of why I don’t read the mainstream press that much…