Doing the Right Thing About Agent Orange

A first! Even though the government still denies that this could happen, the courts ruled that the veteran Marine's testimony made sense and that the evidence backed up his claim. This is a step toward doing the right thing by those who serve their country.

From the Japan Times online edition:

Ailing U.S. veteran wins payout over Agent Orange exposure in Okinawa

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Mar 17, 2014
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has granted compensation to another former service member for exposure to Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era. Dated October 2013, the award was made to a retired marine corps driver suffering from prostate cancer that, the presiding judge ruled, had been triggered by his transportation and usage of the toxic defoliant on the island between 1967 and 1968.

The decision to grant the claim comes in spite of repeated Pentagon denials that Agent Orange was ever present in Okinawa.

According to the ruling of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the unnamed marine alleges he came into contact with Agent Orange while transporting it in barrels and rubber bladders between U.S. military ports at Naha and White Beach — a navy installation on the island’s east coast — and a warehouse on Kadena Air Base. He also claims to have sprayed the defoliant in the Northern Training Area, in the Yanbaru jungles, to keep back foliage and reduce the risk of forest fires.

The former marine was able to identify the barrels he helped to transport as the infamous Vietnam War defoliant due to the tell-tale orange stripes painted around their middles.

The retired service member had first applied for compensation in 2004 but his claim was initially rejected. Following appeals by the veteran, Judge Mary Ellen Larkin ruled in his favor last October, stating, “While neither the service department nor DOD confirms the presence of Agent Orange on Okinawa during 1967 and 1968, the veteran offers a highly credible, consistent account that he was directly exposed thereto during those years while performing his assigned military duties.”


A survey of the communities directly involved in nuclear power generation shows that people are overwhelmingly AGAINST restarts. Here's what The Japan Times online has to say about this:

The Fukushima tragedy justifies nuclear skepticism

by Jeff Kingston

Mar 15, 2014

The findings of a Kyodo survey conducted in February this year reveal a stunning level of reluctance to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors in the host cities, towns and prefectures that stand to gain from revving them back up.

The nation’s 48 viable reactors are generating no electricity at present — and no local subsidies as long as they are idled. However, the spigot of financial inducements would open up again if the local governments in question were to green-light reactor restarts.

Despite this lure, though, only 13 out of the 135 villages, towns, cities and 21 prefectures situated within 30 km of a nuclear power plant responded to the survey saying they would unconditionally approve bringing local reactors back online if the Nuclear Regulation Authority vouched for their safety; another 24 would do so only if certain other conditions were met. It is a stunning rebuke that less than 10 percent of those authorities are keen to sign up for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nuclear renaissance despite all the foregone benefits. It’s not what one would expect given the high subsidy-addiction that afflicts these hosting communities.

(for the full story, go to The Japan Times online)


Radiation Levels in Tokyo: Some Numbers

Here is something from Bloomberg news reported in The Japan Times online edition about relative radiation levels. The commercial flight factoid surprised me.

Tokyo radiation less than the level in Paris

by Jacob Adelman


Mar 11, 2014

Data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health show atmospheric radiation levels in the capital are at the same level as before the Fukushima nuclear disaster started three years ago and are below those in Paris and London.

The average radiation level in central Tokyo was 0.0339 microsievert per hour in Shinjuku Ward on March 6, data showed. That’s about the same as the day before the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami caused three reactor core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, 220 km to the northeast.

That reading compares with 0.085 microsievert in London and 0.108 microsievert in Seoul on March 3, and 0.057 microsievert in Paris on Feb. 27, according to a compilation of world monitoring sites on the website of the Japan National Tourism Organization. Radiation levels in central Tokyo were as high as 0.809 microsieverts per hour on March 15, 2011, before declining to 0.0489 microsievert by the morning of March 18.

Radiation occurs naturally in the environment. While a careful search could still reveal trace levels of Fukushima-linked radioactivity in Tokyo, it now barely registers over readings from background sources, such as solar particles, rocks and soil, said Kathryn Higley, who heads the nuclear engineering and radiation health physics department at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“You have this widely ranging natural background,” Higley said in a telephone interview. “It varies because of the geology. It varies because of your elevation.”

Radiation levels in central Tokyo on March 15, 2011, peaked at about 24 times the level of the day before the accident, prompting thousands of expatriates to flee the country over the following few months.

Last year’s record number of foreign visitors and rising enrollment at international schools show how those concerns have abated, as Tokyo’s radiation readings fall below those in other major cities.

New York recorded 0.094 microsievert an hour on May 31, 2011, according to the last available Geiger counter reading from Background Radiation Survey, a project where owners of the equipment feed their readings into a central database.

By comparison, a commercial flight exposes passengers to about 10 microsieverts per hour, according to the Health Physics Society’s website.


Vulnerability + Empathy = World Peace

A simple equation, and it starts with trouble on a huge scale: the whole world, any place at all, is vulnerable to earthquake, pestilence, flood, drought, tsunami and any number of natural disasters. The following excerpt from The Japan Times online suggests some steps toward building the resilience that enables recovery from large-scale disasters. The excerpt is from a proposal by Daisaku Ikeda of Soka Gakkai International.

"I believe that immeasurable value could be brought to an entire region through cooperation regarding extreme weather and disasters among neighboring countries — the possibility of transforming their understanding of and approach to security.

Above all, the unpredictable nature of extreme weather and natural disasters and the sense of vulnerability they provoke can open the door to empathy and solidarity across national borders.

Furthermore, measures to enhance security in this way would not lead to what has been called the “security dilemma,” a vicious cycle in which the steps that one state takes to heighten security are perceived by other states as an increased threat, causing them to respond with similar measures, only leading to further mistrust and tension. The knowledge, technology and know-how that facilitates cooperation in the area of disaster relief is such that its value to all parties is enhanced through sharing."

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International and founder of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. His 2014 peace proposal can be read at ⤢www.sgi.org.