China donates coronavirus supplies to Italy via China Red Cross


A Chinese team of experts with head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca

A planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, has arrived in Italy from China to help the European country deal with its growing coronavirus crisis…

Italy is now the worst-affected nation in the world after China, since the contagion came to light there on February 21…

The outbreak risks overwhelming Italian hospitals, and some key supplies are running low.

In contrast to China, Italy’s partners in the European Union earlier this month refused Rome’s requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens.

A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived late on Thursday with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Red Cross Society of China.

“In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important,” said the head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca.

In a separate development, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, who is the founder of the Alibaba Group and among the world’s richest people, offered to donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks to the United States, which on Friday declared a national emergency over the outbreak.

…Jack Ma said: “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”…”We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!”

Over the past weeks, Ma’s organisations have helped provide similar supplies to virus-hit countries such as Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.

I’m not certain if today’s generations know much of the history, of the role often assumed by charities like the Red Cross, globally and in individual nations in time of disaster. Whether war or natural disasters, the Red Cross societies can typically be counted upon to provide aid and comfort to victims regardless of political context. Flags and elections don’t count as much as lives at risk.

BTW, I didn’t learn of this aid to Italy from the mainstream channels on American television. Which is why I rely on more international news sources, anyway.

Grannies being recruited for Uber Eats in Japan

❝ Uber Technologies Inc.’s strategy for Japan, where ride-sharing is banned, is as unique as the country itself — think grandma in running shoes delivering ramen noodles.

❝ “The elderly are actually signing up for Eats couriers,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg News. “Eats has been a huge success for us in Japan. It is going to be a very effective introduction to the Uber brand.”

❝ While most workers deliver using a bicycle or scooter, seniors in search of exercise are doing it on foot, Khosrowshahi said. “This is one area unique to Japan, and we are looking if we can expand to the rest of the world,” the CEO said.

Way cool. I absolutely can see this as a positive for retirees who want to combine an income with exercise.

The Welcome Cat


Click to enlargePHOTO: Guilhem Vellut

❝ In the Tokyo suburb of Setagaya, there is a quiet park home to the Gōtoku-ji “Welcome Cat” Temple

The temple is covered in thousands of Maneki Neko, with more being added on a daily basis. While it’s an arresting visual, the alter is essentially a retirement home for the sculptures. After the waving cat has helped its owners’ wishes come true, tradition dictates it’s then returned to the temple for a much-needed rest.

Cultural quaintness includes cultural luck. But, the intent is positive even if the quantum mechanics can’t be relied upon.

Japan’s “Lonely Deaths”

❝ There was a putrid smell emanating from the apartment. There was an obvious brown stain on the futon where the body had been. The futon, the clothes, the newspapers and horse-racing stubs were covered with maggots and flies.

Still, if the man had died in the summer and rotted for months in the sweltering heat, instead of drying to a shrivel as winter approached, it could have been much worse.

“I’d say this is a four out of 10,” said Akira Fujita, leader of the crew from Next, a company that specializes in cleaning up after “lonely deaths” — where people lie dead in their apartments for long periods before being discovered.

❝ Every country has cases where elderly people die alone, but none experiences it quite like Japan, home to the world’s fastest-aging population. More than a quarter of the population is over 65, a figure set to rise to 40 percent by 2050.

Lonely-death statistics are hard to come by — the central government doesn’t collect them — but regional figures show a sharp increase over the past decade. NLI Research Institute, a Tokyo think tank, estimates that about 30,000 people nationwide die this way each year.

❝ As the number of lonely deaths has grown, so too has the lonely-death-cleanup industry. Numerous firms offer this kind of service, and insurance companies have started selling policies to protect landlords if their tenants die inside their properties. The plans cover the cost of cleaning the apartment and compensate for loss of rent. Some will even pay for a purifying ritual in the apartment once the work is done.

RTFA. I have to wonder how healthier lifestyles contribute to this phenomenon, country by country. I’ve outlived many of my peers – especially within my immediate family.

Until I met the love of my life 26 years ago, I had consciously, reflectively, given up on anything other than living alone the rest of my life. It wasn’t an unhappy choice – just realistic for an old geek and activist.

How we entered World War 2

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. In less than three hours, the United States suffered more than 2,400 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 airplanes and 8 battleships.

At one station, Army privates were running the radar and at 7:02 a.m., a large white blip appeared. The privates marked this activity and the continuing movements of incoming planes. Pvt. Joseph Lockard reported this to the Information Center, but a group of American B-17s were due to arrive that day from San Francisco, and Lockard was told to forget about what he saw. It was only after arrival at camp that they received word that at 7:55 a.m. the Japanese had begun dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor.

They realized that the planes they had been tracking on the radar plot were not American, but the Japanese attacking force. They had witnessed the start of World War II for America, but they hadn’t realized it.

And so it began.

Germany to Put First Zero-Emissions Train Into Service This December

❝ Trains, buses and trucks are all vital to the modern world, but the vast majority of them use huge amounts of fuel and create tons of air pollution. What’s even worse is that they represent a (thus far) missed opportunity for making the world’s cities greener.

While buses reduce the need for cars, trains are capable of hauling huge amounts of goods, as are trucks, AND moving huge amounts of people. Imagine if we could convert all of these big vehicles to run on hydrogen, which is the most basic of all molecules…

❝ Many of the world’s advanced nations, namely Norway, Japan and Germany, are investing heavily in the technology in order to move away from their dependence on fossil fuels. The Norwegians, for instance, are going about implementing a new hydrogen-powered train network right now, saving $67 million a year in fuel in the process.

❝ Germany is going even further. It will launch the world’s first hydrogen-powered commuter rail service in December 2017. The hydrogen-powered trains will be used on smaller interurban routes initially, however it’s the first step towards a cleaner, zero-emissions future.

Nice to see some nations – like some cities and states here in the US – press ahead with technology combatting climate change. Something for the next administration [or Congress] to get to work on.

Photo gems from the Moon


Click to enlarge

From October 2007 to June 2009, Japan’s SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) mission orbited the moon. The mission consisted of three spacecraft. The largest was better known by the nickname the public had chosen for it: Kaguya, honoring a lunar princess of Japanese legend.

During its expedition, the SELENE mission returned a wealth of scientific information from its polar orbit, such as the most detailed map of the moon’s gravity field ever obtained up until that time.

The Kaguya spacecraft also carried cameras, including one with a pair of 2.2 megapixel HDTV sensors that captured the first high-definition video from the moon. Thanks to this clear-eyed video camera, many of Kaguya’s images — especially the shots showing the Earth rising and setting at the lunar horizon — are moving in both senses of the word.

Now the Japanese space agency, JAXA, has publicly released the entire data set from Kaguya’s HDTV cameras. The iconic views are all there…plus some gems that haven’t been widely seen before.

Click through to the blog post and follow any other links along the way. Entertaining, beautiful.

Japanese electric utility admits to coverup during Fukushima nuclear meltdown


Warning sign on the road to Fukushima

The utility that ran the Fukushima nuclear plant acknowledged Tuesday its delayed disclosure of the meltdowns at three reactors was tantamount to a coverup and apologized for it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president Naomi Hirose’s apology followed the revelation last week that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor instructed officials during the 2011 disaster to avoid using the word “meltdown.”

I would say it was a coverup,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”…

And it only took five years and information released in an investigation to prompt a moment of honesty.

TEPCO instead described the reactors’ condition as less serious “core damage” for two months after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, wrecked the plant, even though utility officials knew and computer simulations suggested meltdowns had occurred.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials not to use the specific description under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011…Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the Prime Minister’s Office has banned the specific words.

Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said…Former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied the allegation…

Deny, deny, deny. Political hacks, corporate hacks, still rely on the Big Lie to cover their tracks. If you do a crappy job at preserving the safety of ordinary citizens, you lie and deny – unless you can find someone else to blame.