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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

IF YOU PLAN TO VISIT THE ORIENT

I have, maybe, my final major tour of  the Orient in a few weeks.  I hope to finalize all the research I will need for a book or two I'm contemplating, and will have a couple of Blue Revolution meetings.  However, I have not completed the details, and the following predicaments are weighing on me:

1.  CHINA:  Air Pollution
  • Back in December, here was a summary:
    • the most reliable source of information is the U.S. Embassy
    • the parameter of importance is the 2.5 micron index because at this size the particulates can enter your blood stream through your lungs
    • a PM 2.5 of 100 is deemed unhealthy
    • the average in airport smoking lounges is 167
    • a PM 2.5 of 300 is hazardous
    • a couple of American cities reached this level, but only during forest fires
    • the normal high for Beijing is in the 300-400 range, which is ten times what is considered to be safe
    • Linfen, Lanzhou and Urumqi are worse than Beijing
    • at these high readings, visibility on airport runways is just several hundred meters, and flights are regularly cancelled
    • China just last year began using PM 2.5 readings
    • lung cancer is the leading cause of death in China and birth defects are worsening
    • the estimate for 2007 was 656,000 premature deaths from air pollution--which has gotten worse since then
    • hacking coughs are common in Beijing and Shanghai
    • while the air is terrible, water pollution is also becoming famous, and citizens now rarely drink tap water
    • air pollution is high in the winter because the use of more coal
    • the 3.5 million cars in Beijing for 2008 is close to being doubled
    • sand storms begin in March
  • When I last visited Shanghai and Beijing in April of 2013, I began to cough, and it took me a month to finally get over the exposure.
  • THUS, I WILL NOT STOP BY CHINA ON MY NEXT ORIENT ADVENTURE.
  • Okay, this one doesn't worry me one bit.  Sure, China is expanding it's military capabilities, but not to attack Japan, and, certainly, not the USA either.  They feel historically compelled to posture for resource and political rights.  Remember, though, that their defense budget remains around one-sixth of the U.S.
  • More than anything, these are plants by our Military Industrial Complex (MIC), this time to minimize budget cuts announced by Secretary of State Chuck Hagel.
  • Every state has its designated news reporter for the MIC, and in Hawaii it is William Cole (right).  He wins awards, but the MIC is smart enough to have reasonably respected reporters plead their case.  Further, the local readers identify with this point of view because people are concerned about jobs and their economy.  Every state has important military contracts.
I have a two-week Shinkansen trip on my schedule to visit Sakura sites and finalize my roots search for a possible novel about my grandfather's grandmother, who might have been a female samurai.

3.  No great surprise, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is again pushing to revive nuclear power in Japan.  Not only to re-start the currently dormant ones (all 50 are currently idle), but a plan to expand this option for their long-term future.  Maybe they have no other option left, but Abe's office also indicated that they will spend around a third of a billion dollars to FREEZE the ground around the Fukushima disaster area to prevent radioactive water from leaking into the ocean.  Can you imagine then the cost of electricity that will be needed to keep the ground frozen for decades, if not centuries?


4.  The protests in Thailand are continuing.  This weekend several were killed and 50 injured, including in the busiest shopping areas of Bangkok...with grenades!  Last year it was mostly a lot of people waving Thai flags.  The previous government crisis beginning in 2008 lasted more than two years.  I almost got stranded, as the major international airport in Bangkok closed only a couple of days after I left.  Now people are getting killed.  Hmmm....Bangkok is currently one of my stops.

5.  My first leg from Honolulu is to Seoul via Asiana.  Relations between North and South seem to be improving, with high-level talks, emotional reunions and unofficial thoughts about North Korea perhaps hosting a few events during the next Winter Olympics in 2018.


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