If Penguins Could Talk...

I wonder what this bird would tell us? Was his adventure a high point in his young life, or the scariest thing ever? It makes me want to re-read The Story of Ping, a picture book about a runaway duckling I read in kindergarten.

In any case, the runaway penguin is back at home, only a little worse for the wear.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Penguin picked up case of pinkeye

The plucky penguin that was recaptured last week after nearly three months on the lam in the polluted waters of Tokyo Bay has conjunctivitis, an aquarium official said Monday.

The Humboldt penguin, one of 135 kept at Tokyo Sea Life Park, was taken back into captivity after 82 days of freedom following a breakout that made global headlines and garnered it a following around the world.

On Friday, the day after its adventure came to an end, the bird "was diagnosed by a veterinarian as having conjunctivitis, so we have kept it in a room separate from the rest of our penguins," said aquarium official Takashi Sugino.

Fans of the 1-year-old runaway — known by the aquarium only as Penguin No. 337 and lacking any sexual features due to its age — will have to wait until it has recovered from the condition, also known as pinkeye, before it is back in public view.


Mama Nature Gets Some Help

An unusual bird that has been absent for years might make a comeback. Here is the latest bulletin from The Japan Times Online:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Crested ibis chicks leave Sado nest

NIIGATA — All three of the crested ibis chicks hatched in the wild late last month temporarily left their nest on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture on Sunday, two days after the first sibling became the first to do so in 38 years, the Environment Ministry said.

The possibility is high that the three will come back to the nest or stay in nearby trees for awhile. Still, the incident marked a landmark for Japan, which tried for years to save the bird from extinction and used artificial breeding to reintroduce the species to the wild.


See the Annular Elcipse

An annular eclipse--the kind where the moon passes between the sun and earth leaving only a fiery ring of sunshine visible is due on Monday and should be visible from Tokyo. Here is a plan to make this unusual event even more special:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Excitement builds for rare eclipse, but will weather hold?

A wide stretch of the country will be able to see the ring eclipse, in which the moon will pass in front of the sun, blocking out all but an outer circle of light. Scientists call this an annular eclipse.

Astronomers say the greater Tokyo area, home to more than 30 million people, will be a prime spot to see the event, which has not been visible in the capital for 173 years.

Eclipse-viewing glasses have flown off the shelves and television stations are planning live broadcasts amid stark warnings not to look directly at the sun.

One of the most ambitious projects to mark the moment is being mounted by Panasonic Corp., which had sent an expedition to the top of Mount Fuji to film the phenomenon using solar-powered equipment.

"Our goal in this project is to broadcast the world's most beautiful annular eclipse from the highest mountain in Japan," the electronics giant said


Agent Orange on Okinawa

Here is the full story from The Japan Times online, revealing the "smoking gun" that proves Uncle Sam is a liar when he says Agent Orange was never on Okinawa, and that the men and women who served in the US military in Okinawa do not, therefore, deserve to have their Agent Orange-caused illnesses treated.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Agent Orange 'tested in Okinawa'
Documents indicate jungle use in 1962

Special to The Japan Times
Recently uncovered documents show that the United States conducted top-secret tests of Agent Orange in Okinawa in 1962, according to a veterans services employee.

Paper trail: Michelle Gatz holds the logbook of the SS Schuyler Otis Bland, which apparently transported defoliants to Okinawa in the early 1960s. MICHELLE GATZ

The experiments, believed to have taken place under the auspices of Project AGILE — a classified program to research unconventional warfare techniques — have also been confirmed by a former high-ranking American official.

The documents, which include a ship's logbook, army deployment orders and declassified government records, were tracked down by Michelle Gatz, a veterans service officer in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota.

While assisting a former soldier who claims he was poisoned by these defoliants at military ports in Okinawa in the early 1960s, Gatz pieced together the paper trail of how the chemicals were transported from the U.S. to the island aboard the merchant marine ship SS Schuyler Otis Bland.

"The ship's logbook shows it was carrying classified cargo that was offloaded under armed guard at White Beach (a U.S. Navy port on Okinawa's east coast) on 25 April, 1962," Gatz told The Japan Times.

The Bland was a civilian-owned ship regularly employed by the U.S. Navy to transport defoliants incognito and that was able to bypass customs inspections of military vessels entering foreign ports.

Three months prior to its arrival at Okinawa, the Bland had traveled to South Vietnam to deliver one of the Pentagon's first shipments of defoliants. After departing Okinawa in spring 1962, the Bland sailed to the Panama Canal Zone where, the Panamanian government asserts, the U.S. tested Agent Orange in the early 1960s.

Recently, more than 30 U.S. veterans — all of them suffering from diseases consistent with dioxin-exposure — have spoken to The Japan Times about the presence of Agent Orange at 15 military installations in Okinawa, causing widespread alarm that the prefecture remains polluted by notoriously persistent dioxins.

The U.S. government has repeatedly denied assistance for these ailing veterans, claiming Agent Orange and similar herbicides were never present in Okinawa. However, the U.S. government still refuses to release large sections of its records related to the defoliant tests it conducted in the 1960s.

Gatz believes the Bland's cargo was used in some of these tests — namely Project AGILE, which was tasked with finding how chemicals could deprive enemy soldiers of jungle cover and crops.

The publicly accessible pages of the project show that in 1962, the military was growing impatient with the inconclusive results of early defoliation experiments in South Vietnam, so it ordered an unspecified group in Army Chemical Biological Research "to develop advanced dissemination systems for defoliating vegetation."

After filing a request with the Army College in Pennsylvania under the Freedom of Information Act, Gatz was able to pinpoint what she believes to be the precise unit — the U.S. Army's 267th Chemical Service Platoon.

"The 267th was formerly stationed in Alaska, but the records show that in 1962, it was inexplicably reactivated, then transferred to Okinawa. It was brought there to conduct defoliant tests on the island's tropical vegetation," says Gatz.

The 267th Chemical Service Platoon was also involved in "Operation Red Hat," the military project that shipped 12,000 tons of U.S. biological and chemical weapons out of Okinawa before its reversion to Japan, according to veterans' testimonies and a 2009 ruling on defoliants by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A retired American high official made headlines in The Okinawa Times last September when his account broke the military's wall of silence by claiming that the Pentagon had tested defoliants in the island's northern jungles near Kunigami and Higashi villages.

In an interview with the newspaper, the official, who declined to be named, stated that Okinawa was selected for such experiments due to its vegetation's similarities to that of Vietnam and the lack of strict safety regulations that curtailed potentially dangerous tests elsewhere.

After reading the chain of events pieced together by Gatz, the retired official, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that her assertions were correct. However, he added that he was concerned for Gatz's job security now that she was going public with her findings.

Gatz says she is determined to pursue the truth no matter what the consequences.

"These documents are the smoking gun. Now there is no way that the Department of Defense can continue to deny defoliants were ever on Okinawa. It's time they owned up and started giving these sick veterans the justice they deserve."

Telling it like it is

"These documents are the smoking gun. Now there is no way that the Department of Defense can continue to deny defoliants were ever on Okinawa. It's time they owned up and started giving these sick veterans the justice they deserve."

This is from a report in The Japan Times online, detailing the paperwork related to Agent Orange in Okinawa. It's a scary story that won't go away. It can't be erased, and, like most military fiascoes, the effects are still being felt.

The very, very least that should be done is to give these affected veterans the medical care they earned by serving in he US military.

(full story to follow)


Japan feels a tiny bit safer

This is from The Japan Times online:

Japan nuke-free for first time since '70
Tomari unit shut down but drive already on to restart Oi plant
Japan was running without nuclear power for the first time in 42 years Saturday, as the final commercial reactor in operation was shut down for routine maintenance.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. gradually started taking reactor 3 at its Tomari nuclear plant offline around 5 p.m., and operations completely halted by 11 p.m.

No reactors shut for regular scheduled checks have gone back online since the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power station in March 2011. All 50 of the nation's viable reactors must now undergo mandatory two-stage stress tests to determine if they can resume operations, a measure introduced amid the nuclear crisis.

But the government and power companies also have to win approval in the court of public opinion, which has soured against atomic energy after the massive radioactive fallout emitted by the Fukushima facility's crippled reactors, and the mass evacuations that ensued.


Clever bird!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stray parakeet gives cops his address, is driven home

YOKOHAMA — A male budgerigar, which was missing and later captured at a hotel in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, has been safely returned to its owner, after the pet parakeet told police its home address, authorities said Wednesday.

The budgerigar fled from 64-year-old woman's home in Sagamihara early Sunday morning. The pet bird was later captured at the nearby hotel after it perched on the shoulder of a male guest, according to police.

The bird was turned over to the police, which kept it in a cage.

Late Tuesday night, the budgerigar suddenly began to repeat an address, prompting the police to contact the owner, they said.

"We never thought that we could find the owner in this manner," a police officer said.