For my last CitizenBlog, I thought I’d do a roundup of a couple of interesting topics, including Japan, Cuba, smallpox, nuclear power, and more.
First, we have “[Japan’s] Education Ministry to begin using English during internal meetings”:
In a bid to be more globally competitive and raise the level of English education in the country, the Japanese Ministry of Education will soon begin conducting their meetings in the language. As using English in meetings is highly unusual in the country, the ministry will start implementing it slowly, beginning with high-level officials in their department.
Maybe it’s just because I love learning Japanese, but I really dislike this idea. Although, if it’s just in the Education Ministry, and not a government-wide mandate, I suppose it would be OK… not that it’s my place to tell Japan what to do, anyway. I’m just afraid that this sort of initiative will turn into a country-wide mandate to embrace the future (“english! yay!”) and forget the past (“日本語はだめだよ！”). Well, what will be, will be, I suppose. Still, I’m going to give it a thumbs down.
Part Two: Apparently, the WTO has followed Australia’s lead and decided that tobacco should be sold in plain packaging.
Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab olive-coloured packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small standardised fonts.
Cuba seems to be a bit angry about this, as the Telegraph reports:
Cuba has accused Britain of being anti-capitalist and threatening free trade with its plans introduce plain packaging on cigarettes and cigars.
Cuba said it recognized Britain’s “sovereign right to apply measures aimed at protecting the health of its people while recognising that tobacco is a harmful but lawful product in international trade”.
“We therefore respectfully ask that the British Government refrain from adopting such packaging until there has been a definitive ruling in the dispute currently before the DSB, so that this measure may be assessed on the basis of those findings.”
(Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have all brought legal action against Australia, the first country to ban colourful logos on cigarette packaging.)
While I am firmly against tobacco products, and I realize that the tobacco industry has gone overboard with its advertisements in the past, I am generally opposed to regulatory bodies that … erm, regulate the packaging of products. So, another thumbs down from me.
Next up, “Scientists Urge Delay In Destroying Last Smallpox:
More than three decades after the eradication of smallpox, U.S. officials say it’s still not time to destroy the last known stockpiles of the virus behind one of history’s deadliest diseases.
Going beyond the traditional fear that terrorist groups have hoarded a copy of the virus, there’s now speculation that it could be possible to develop a copy of smallpox from scratch:
Moreover, a recent World Health Organization meeting raised a new specter: Advances in synthetic biology mean it may be technologically possible to create a version of smallpox from scratch.
“The synthetic biology adds a new wrinkle to it,” Jimmy Kolker, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for global affairs, told The Associated Press. “We now aren’t as sure that our countermeasures are going to be as effective as we’d thought even five years ago.”
Still, there should be something decided about the destruction of smallpox eventually:
And Kolker, the chief U.S. delegate to the upcoming meeting, said a number of countries want WHO to appoint outside experts to evaluate how serious the synthetic biology threat really is by year’s end.
“This isn’t something that should drag on forever, and the U.S. doesn’t want it to drag on forever,” he said. “We can’t just ignore it.”
I’m going to give this one a thumbs up: we’re actually thinking a decision through!
Floating Nuclear Power: As The Dish says, “it could happen” (I’m just going to quote their entire blurb here):
There are many things people do not want to be built in their backyard, and nuclear power stations are high on the list. But what if floating reactors could be moored offshore, out of sight? There is plenty of water to keep them cool and the electricity they produce can easily be carried onshore by undersea cables. Moreover, once the nuclear plant has reached the end of its life it can be towed away to be decommissioned. Unusual as it might seem, such an idea is gaining supporters in America and Russia. …
The American researchers think there is no particular limit to the size of a floating nuclear power station and that even a 1,000MW one—the size of some of today’s largest terrestrial nuclear plants—could be built. They believe the floating versions could be designed to meet all regulatory and security requirements, which would include protecting the structure from underwater attack, says Dr [Neil] Todreas.
I just… Aren’t we still cleaning up from Fukushima? I know that we think we could build a plant that physically can’t melt down, but — if that’s the case — why haven’t we? Aside from money, of course.
Thumbs down. Down, down, down! How about, I don’t know, floating wind farms? Or floating solar panels?
And finally, I’ll wrap this up with my weird snippet of the week, from Talking Points Memo:
A South Dakota lawmaker is calling for a statewide conversation on the dangers of anal sex and claims anti-anal sex forces have been silenced and intimidated into silence by pro-anal sex forces. …
“Certainly there are board-certified doctors in our state who will attest to what seems self-evident to so many: gay sex is not good for the body or mind,” he wrote.
There are pro- and anti-anal-sex forces? Do they wage war? 😉 In all seriousness, though, why do lawmakers feel the need to meddle in our lives? Aside from their personal beliefs.
Maybe I should feel special that they think that our lifestyles are more important than running the rest of the government?
In summary, I wish I’d started something like this a long time ago. I had a lot of fun gathering up these posts, and I hope that at least one of them made you think.
Too long? Too short? Not enough thinking? Comments are welcome! I’m itching to try out that “reply” button.