Sunday, February 26, 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
"In his hands, the banjo was not a timekeeper but a storyteller."
Dock Boggs, 2014 Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
Posted by swaggies at 8:55 pm
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
|A market in Port-Vila, the capital of Vanuatu|
Cookies and sugary drinks served at government meetings are about to go away. So are imported noodles and canned fish served in tourist bungalows.
Taking their place? Local coconuts, lobsters and lime juice.
While many governments struggle to ban soda to curb obesity, the tiny Torba Tourism Council in the remote Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is planning to outlaw all imported food at government functions and tourist establishments across the province’s 13 inhabited islands.
Provincial leaders hope to turn them instead into havens of local organic food. The ban, scheduled to take effect in March, comes as many Pacific island nations struggle with an obesity crisis brought on in part by the overconsumption of imported junk food.
“We want to ban all other junk food from this province,” Luke Dini, the council’s chairman and a retired Anglican priest, said in a telephone interview from Torba. He said the province had about 9,000 residents and got fewer than 1,000 tourists a year, mostly Europeans.
Mr. Dini said the pending ban was an effort to promote local agriculture and a response to an increase in diabetes and other diseases that council members have observed in Vanuatu’s capital, Port-Vila. Passing a more comprehensive ban on junk food imports to Torba could take at least two years, he added, and a final decision on which products to ban would be made by the national government.
Public health experts who study the island nations of the Pacific welcomed the ban, saying that bold measures were necessary for an impoverished and isolated region of 10 million people — one where the cost of sending legions of patients abroad for dialysis treatment or kidney transplants is untenable.
“Imagine if 75 million Americans had diabetes — that’s the scale of the epidemic we’re talking about in Vanuatu,” Roger Magnusson, a professor of health law and governance at Sydney Law School in Australia, said in an email.
“Can anyone seriously say that Vanuatu doesn’t have the right to exercise its health sovereignty in every way possible to protect its population from an epidemic of that scale?” he added.
Experts say the region’s health crisis is primarily driven by a decades-long shift from traditional diets based on root crops toward ones that are high in sugar, refined starch and processed foods.
In a sign of how urgent the crisis is, the World Bank said in a 2014 report that 52 percent of adult men in the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga were estimated to be obese — the highest rate of 188 countries surveyed. It also said that of the seven countries worldwide with female obesity rates of at least 50 percent, four were Pacific island nations: Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
A study that year in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice said 10 countries and territories in the region had diabetes rates of between 19 percent and 37 percent. The rate in Vanuatu, which has a population of about 250,000, was nearly 24 percent, the study said, and economic development there was closely linked with consumption of animal proteins and simple carbohydrates.
By contrast, the diabetes rate in the United States in 2014 was 9.3 percent.
“It is so wrong what is being done to exploit these nations by providing a food supply that is not, in the long term, better for health,” said Elaine Rush, a professor of nutrition at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand who has studied health problems in the Pacific islands. She described the effect that the health crisis was having on families there as “decimating.”
Experts said in interviews that there was a precedent in the region for policies to restrict imports of unhealthy drinks and other products.
More than half of the 20 Pacific island countries and territories monitored by the World Health Organization, including Vanuatu, have taxes for sugar-sweetened beverages, said Wendy Snowdon, a W.H.O. official based in Suva, the capital of Fiji. Some communities in the region have banned tobacco, she added, and Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, has banned imports of carbonated soft drinks.
Gerhard Sundborn, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland, said that sugar-sweetened beverages carried an average tax of between about 7 percent and 15 percent in the Pacific islands, and that governments there typically used the taxes to discourage consumption.
Posted by swaggies at 7:33 pm
Friday, February 17, 2017
Saturday, February 04, 2017
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Last modified on Saturday 4 February 2017
Radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are at their highest since the plant suffered a triple meltdown almost six years ago.
The facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded inside the containment vessel of reactor No 2, one of three reactors that experienced a meltdown when the plant was crippled by a huge tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011.
The extraordinary radiation readings highlight the scale of the task confronting thousands of workers, as pressure builds on Tepco to begin decommissioning the plant – a process that is expected to take about four decades.
The recent reading, described by some experts as “unimaginable”, is far higher than the previous record of 73 sieverts an hour in that part of the reactor.
A single dose of one sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea; 5 sieverts would kill half those exposed to it within a month, and a single dose of 10 sieverts would prove fatal within weeks.
Tepco also said image analysis had revealed a hole in metal grating beneath the same reactor’s pressure vessel. The one-metre-wide hole was probably created by nuclear fuel that melted and then penetrated the vessel after the tsunami knocked out Fukushima Daiichi’s back-up cooling system.
“It may have been caused by nuclear fuel that would have melted and made a hole in the vessel, but it is only a hypothesis at this stage,” Tepco’s spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi told AFP.
“We believe the captured images offer very useful information, but we still need to investigate given that it is very difficult to assume the actual condition inside.”
The presence of dangerously high radiation will complicate efforts to safely dismantle the plant.
A remote-controlled robot that Tepco intends to send into the No 2 reactor’s containment vessel is designed to withstand exposure to a total of 1,000 sieverts, meaning it would survive for less than two hours before malfunctioning.
The firm said radiation was not leaking outside the reactor, adding that the robot would still prove useful since it would move from one spot to the other and encounter radiation of varying levels.
Tepco and its network of partner companies at Fukushima Daiichi have yet to identify the location and condition of melted fuel in the three most seriously damaged reactors. Removing it safely represents a challenge unprecedented in the history of nuclear power.
Quantities of melted fuel are believed to have accumulated at the bottom of the damaged reactors’ containment vessels, but dangerously high radiation has prevented engineers from accurately gauging the state of the fuel deposits.
Earlier this week, the utility released images of dark lumps found beneath reactor No 2 that it believes could be melted uranium fuel rods – the first such discovery since the disaster.
In December, the government said the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and decontaminating the surrounding area, as well as paying compensation and storing radioactive waste, had risen to 21.5tn yen (£150bn), nearly double an estimate released in 2013.
Posted by swaggies at 10:46 am