Hashimoto’s Remarks

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Toru Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the Japan Restoration party, recently made some comments that were summarized by the mainstream media in customary fashion.

Spandrell provides his own translation of Hashimoto’s remarks:

As a result of losing the war, Japan has to accept that what it did is considered aggression. That’s what it means to lose a war. That’s not an issue with China and Korea, it’s an issue with all the victors of the war. If you deny that Japan was an aggressor, you have to start a world war again and win it. That’s ridiculous.

As a defeated nation, Japan must accept to be deemed the aggressor. Of those who deny that Japan was an aggressor, there are many who value Bushido. Well, a defeat is a defeat. You have to accept it graciously. And it’s also a fact that we caused great suffering and damage on our neighbouring countries. We have to reflect, and apologize.

As part of that, Japan can’t just say, it’s been 70 years since our defeat, now we’re even. The appraisal of the victims and third parties is important. The solution must come from Japan’s behavior and time.

Having this big principle in mind, still there are important misunderstandings that are causing Japan to be unduly insulted, and we must respond to them. And we also have to have a proper understanding of the historical conditions of the time. That is not to rationalize our conduct, but to avoid undue insults.

The fact that through aggression and colonial rule, we caused great damage and suffering to our neighbouring countries, as a defeated nation, we must accept, reflect and apologize. However, the fact is the powers of that time all had colonial possessions. And on the comfort women system, the fact is all the militaries around the world had systems to cope with the sexual urges of their soldiers.

Obviously, the fact that it was OK back then, doesn’t mean it should be applied today. However, we should understand properly the conditions of the time. Not to rationalize our conduct, but to avoid undue insults.

The fact that humans, and especially men, need a way to cope with their sexual urges is an undeniable fact. In modern society this is mainly done through marriage, or through relationships, but in other historical periods, there were other ways. It is a fact that in countries other than Japan, the unmet sexual urges of soldiers were met through a system of comfort women.

The criticism that the world is making about Japan’s comfort women system, is because it is presumed that Japan, as a matter of national policy, went around kidnapping women with violence and extortion and forcing them into being comfort women. I am not a historian, so I do not know all the specific facts, but on a 2007 Diet resolution, it was established that there is no evidence behind that allegation.

Of course if evidence were to come out we should apologize, but as of now, the government official position is that there is no such evidence. Some days ago, a resolution was made about some new evidence that might come up soon. That’s why people go on saying that there were forceful kidnappings, and related organizations should go on collecting evidence.

There was an incident about Japanese soldiers in Indonesia forcing Dutch women into prostitution. That is obviously unacceptable. This incident in particular went on a war crimes trial and death sentences were pronounced. If you asked me today whether comfort women were good or bad, well of course I don’t think they were a good thing, but if you look at all other countries in the world, it’s a fact that they all had ways of coping with sexual urges of their soldiers.

There are many ways of coping. You can use the local brothels, you can set have the military administer the brothels like Japan did. When the US military invaded Japan, the Japanese government set up the Recreational and Amusement Association (RAA). I am sorry for those who became comfort women against their will. Administrators might have lied to women when hiring them.

That’s part of the tragedy of war and that’s why we shouldn’t go to war. Just because reparations have been legally addressed between Korea and Japan, it’s not becoming of a politician to shut up old comfort women with legalese. Even if the legal problems have been addressed, there are other ways of speaking and dealing with people.

But it is also an undeniable fact that there is no evidence to say that Japan, as a matter of national policy, went around kidnapping Korean women and forcing them into prostitution. If the world is misunderstanding the issue, Japan must speak out to avoid being unduly insulted. I mean, bringing the US into the picture isn’t fair. USA has always denounced prostitution, even today.

But it’s still a fact that in the surroundings of US military bases, the sex industry flourishes. When the US invasion army arrived, Japan set up the RAA. But McArthur’s GHQ banned it. Nonetheless, private prostitution flourished. Even if you officially ban it, the fact is the soldier’s sexual urges don’t go away. You need to think of ways of coping with that.

When I recommended the commanding officer at Futenma base to use the local sex industry, I didn’t mean for him to do anything illegal. According to Asahi Shinbun, the US military spokesman said “We wouldn’t do anything illegal, Hashimoto is ridiculous”. What I told him was to use the legal sex industry. To stop being a phony.

[Prostitution is illegal in Japan since McArthur, but officially only penetration is illegal, and there are tons of different venues where you can get every tiny different sexual service you can think of. That's why there's a sex industry, but not prostitution. Legally, of course. ]

The US military forbids its personnel to use even the legal sex industry. Even if you ban them from suing it, their sexual urges don’t just go away. If US soldiers use the local sex industry, not necessarily it would solve the sex crimes they commit in Okinawa. We haven’t proved any causation. But please just stop with the Victorian facade.

Thing is instead of dealing seriously with human’s sexual urges, they just close their eyes. Even in developed countries, it happens that women do that kind of work against their will. We must fight that. But in Japan, people are free to chose their profession, so why do you deny the sex industry?

As I see it, to denounce the legal sex industry in Japan, is discrimination against the women who chose to work there. There is no problem whatsoever in US military personnel making use of the japanese sex industry.

Nikola Tesla Pitching Silicon Valley VCs

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Behold Nikola Tesla pitching Silicon Valley VCs:

Not a Terrorist Attack

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The ideological cause of the Benghazi bungles was ideological blindness, Jim points out:

The attack on the Benghazi embassy was not a terrorist attack. It was a conventional military operation by the uniformed and well equipped troops of an organization that frequently engages in terrorist attacks. They used truck mounted artillery, not box cutters, and were dressed as Al Qaeda armed forces, not civilians. If you cannot say “War with Dar al-Islam”, or even say “War with Radical Islam”, you cannot see Islamic armed forces.

No one seems able to say “uniformed”. They say that they were wearing “Afghan costumes”. But no one in Libya wears “Afghan” costumes except armed forces affiliated with Al Qaeda, thus the costumes clearly identify them as members of an organized military force, which is the Geneva Convention definition of a military uniform.

So Al Qaeda launched a conventional military attack on the US government, and the US government refused to fight back. That was scandal one. Scandal two was that the US government proceeded to lie about it, to fit it into what they wanted to believe, rather than what actually happened. Hence the cover story that the attack was a demonstration related to a video critical of Mohammed — that it was outraged civilians, or perhaps terrorists hiding amongst outraged civilians and using them as human shields.

This lie was not only intended to cover up the first scandal, but to enable them to continue to believe in a worldview that had been falsified by events. They lied to themselves, as well as to their opponents.

How Doping Made Its Way Up Everest

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

When I first read about mountaineers summiting Everest without supplemental oxygen, I assumed they were doping and wondered how this was seen within the climbing community:

High-altitude climbers have long used substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Code — everything from amphetamines to steroids to acclimatization aid acetazolamide, or Diamox, which prevents acute mountain sickness. The erectile-dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis are also common, since they decrease pulmonary-artery pressure, and if you talk to enough people you’ll hear rumors about climbers using EPO, the red-blood-cell booster popular with pro cyclists. Yet, due to the unique health challenges at altitude, the line between staying safe and getting a leg up has always been blurry.

Not counting Diamox, which carries minimal risk, dex is by far the most popular mountaineering drug. Banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but endorsed as a high-altitude rescue tool by the Wilderness Medical Society, dex works like most cortico-steroids, supplying synthetic cortisol to the body and suppressing inflammation. In the brain it stabilizes cell membranes, preventing fluid from leaking out of blood vessels into the surrounding tissue.

Because it inhibits cerebral swelling, dex is a terrific life rope for climbers who start to show signs of edema. It’s most often taken in pill form, but it can also be injected during emergencies. High-altitude doctors refer to it as a magic bullet, and some Spanish-speaking mountaineers have taken to calling it levanta muertos, because, as Argentine guide Damian Benegas says, “it brings life to a dead person.” The most famous case of this occurred during the 1996 Everest disaster, when Beck Weathers rose from a comatose state after Alpine Ascents guide Pete Athans gave him dex.

Over the past two decades, climbers have discovered that dex also works magic on the way up, increasing lucidity and triggering feelings of euphoria. This is where the trouble starts, because people who take cortico-steroids for more than a week impair their immune systems: adrenal glands that naturally produce cortisol are essentially shut off by the drug and stop responding to stress. As a result, wounds don’t heal quickly, and users are susceptible to infection. Emotional swings are also common after prolonged use, though doctors still don’t understand the precise mechanism for that.

Many in the medical community argue that dex should be employed only in life-threatening scenarios, since prophylactic use masks HACE symptoms and reduces the drug’s efficacy in the event of emergency. “You basically take away your safety rope by using it on the way up,” says Dr. Luanne Freer, the 55-year-old founder of the Everest ER clinic. “If you get stuck in a storm, then we have nothing to give you as a rescue drug.” Adds leading dex expert Dr. Robert “Brownie” Schoene, of Berkeley, California, “It is probably the one drug that has been abused in terms of enhancing mountaineering performance.”

This is due in part to how easy it is to obtain. You can fill a prescription at any pharmacy (Easterling’s source: Target) or buy it on the street in Nepal for five cents a dose. And demand is on the rise as Everest clients dishing out $70,000 per climb look to increase their odds of summiting. According to Bill Allen, co-owner of the Colorado outfitter Mountain Trip, half of his clients ask about dex before setting out for Everest. Johnson, the Everest ER doctor who treated Easterling, says, “I would be shocked if 50 percent of Everest climbers aren’t using dex at Camp III and above.” And not just clients: “I’ve had highly paid, sponsored climbers and guides — people whose names you’d know right away — ask me about dex. They don’t want their clients or anyone else to know they’re using it.”

Making Millions online with Wool

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Hugh Howey’s success with Wool suggests that self-published e-books are on the rise — and fulfilling unmet demand:

These days, self-published authors such as Bella Andre and CJ Lyons regularly appear on New York Times bestseller lists. Self-published titles made up 25 percent of the top-selling books on Amazon last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The stigma of self-publishing,” Snow says, “has largely vanished.”

Howey believes self-published authors are succeeding because traditional publishers aren’t meeting readers’ demands for certain literary genres, particularly science fiction, romance and erotica. E.L. James’ three-volume erotic novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” is a prime example. Random House has sold more than 70 million print, e-book and audio copies of the trilogy, which began as a self-published book.

Howey understands why publishers are reluctant to lard their catalogues with these genres. “It would be jarring if half the Penguin catalogue was erotica,” he says. “I think their self-respect is more important than the bottom line.”

He says he also knows that many authors – more than the literary establishment realizes – are making a good living through self-publishing. Months ago, he did an informal survey, posting a message on an Amazon Kindle forum asking for examples of self-published writers earning $100 to $500 a month.

He got at least 1,000 responses, he says, with many people noting they were earning a lot more than the range he had posted. “I’ve heard from people making tens of thousands of dollars,” he says, “and I’ve never heard of their books.”

(Hat tip à mon père.)

Video of Woolwich Terrorist

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

This video of the Woolwich terrorist is surreal, as the youth casually apologizes to a camera crew — that our women had to see this — while still covered in blood and holding bloody knives:

“You people will never be safe. Remove your governments. They don’t care about you.”

I can’t imagine things going down quite this way in, say, Texas.

Phage-Filled Mucus

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Animals use mucus as a protective barrier in places like the gut and lungs, and that mucus is full of bacteria-eating viruses called phages:

These protect their hosts from infection by destroying incoming bacteria. In return, the phages are exposed to a steady torrent of microbes in which to reproduce.

Microbial ecologist Forest Rohwer found that mucus contained four times more phages than the surrounding environment:

Mucus mainly consists of huge molecular complexes called mucins, which are made up of thousands of glycan sugars attached to a central protein backbone. The team showed that phages stick to these sugars, which Barr likens to a “large biological bottlebrush”.

The glycans are constantly changing and extremely variable, but the phages have equally diverse proteins in their coats, which allow them to cling to this inconsistent environment. The team showed that the presence of phages reduced the number of bacteria that can attach to mucus by more than 10,000 times.

Barr says he thinks that the phage strains found most often in mucus will be those that target the most common bacteria, providing a sort of ‘mucus memory’ against the most relevant local microbes. But because mucus is continuously being shed and replenished, these relationships are in constant flux. Barr, Rohwer and the team are now trying to simulate the evolutionary dynamics within this realm of mucus.

Sweden stunned by third night of rioting

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Hundreds of “youths” have set fire to cars and attacked police and rescue services in Stockholm’s suburbs:

“We’ve had around 30 cars set on fire last night, fires that we connect to youth gangs and criminals,” Kjell Lindgren, spokesman for Stockholm police, said on Wednesday.

Yes, the key feature is that they are youths:

The riots appear to have been sparked by the police killing of a 69-year-old man wielding a machete in the suburb of Husby this month, which prompted accusations of police brutality.

I can see why the youths would feel such strong solidarity with a 69-year-old man and would be baffled by police brutality toward him for the simple act of wielding a machete.

So, what are the real issues?

While average living standards are still among the highest in Europe, governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.

Ah, long-term youth unemployment and poverty. Yes, yes, terrible that this youth unemployment is afflicting these immigrant communities:

Some 15 percent of the population is foreign-born, the highest proportion in the Nordic region. Unemployment among those born outside Sweden stands at 16 percent, compared with 6 percent for native Swedes, according to OECD data.

Among 44 industrialized countries, Sweden ranked fourth in the absolute number of asylum seekers, and second relative to its population, according to U.N. figures.

All this despite Sweden’s generous welfare benefits…

Time Passes Very Slowly

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Paul Templar worked as a guide on the Zambezi river near Victoria Falls, and he knew the local hippos:

That day I’d taken clients out with three apprentice guides — Mike, Ben and Evans — all in kayaks. We were near the end of the tour, the light was softening and we were taking in the tranquillity. The solid whack I felt behind me took me by surprise.

I turned just in time to see Evans, who had been flung out of his boat, flying through the air. His boat, with his two clients still in it, had been lifted half out of the water on the back of the huge bull hippo.

There was a cluster of rocks nearby and I yelled at the nearest apprentice to guide everyone there, to safety. Then I turned my boat and paddled furiously towards Evans.

I reached over to grab his outstretched hand but as our fingers were about to touch, I was engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.

I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around — my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo’s snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.

I wriggled as hard as I could, and in the few seconds for which he opened his jaws, I managed to escape. I swam towards Evans, but the hippo struck again, dragging me back under the surface. I’d never heard of a hippo attacking repeatedly like this, but he clearly wanted me dead.

Hippos’ mouths have huge tusks, slicing incisors and a bunch of smaller chewing teeth. It felt as if the bull was making full use of the whole lot as he mauled me — a doctor later counted almost 40 puncture wounds and bite marks on my body. The bull simply went berserk, throwing me into the air and catching me again, shaking me like a dog with a doll.

Then down we went again, right to the bottom, and everything went still. I remember looking up through 10 feet of water at the green and yellow light playing on the surface, and wondering which of us could hold his breath the longest. Blood rose from my body in clouds, and a sense of resignation overwhelmed me. I’ve no idea how long we stayed under — time passes very slowly when you’re in a hippo’s mouth.

The hippo lurched suddenly for the surface, spitting me out as it rose. Mike was still waiting for me in his kayak and managed to paddle me to safety. I was a mess. My left arm was crushed to a pulp, blood poured from the wounds in my chest and when he examined my back, Mike discovered a wound so savage that my lung was visible.

Luckily, he knew first aid and was able to seal the wounds in my chest with the wrapper from a tray of snacks, which almost certainly stopped my lungs from collapsing and saved my life.

By chance, a medical team was nearby, on an emergency drill, and with their help I stayed alive long enough to reach a hospital with a surgeon. He warned me he would probably have to take off both my arms and the bottom of my injured leg. In the end, I lost only my left arm — they managed to patch up the rest.

Evans’ body was found down river two days later. Attempts were made to find and kill the rogue hippo, but he seemed to have gone into hiding.

More Than Deliberate Practice

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Ericsson et al. found that top-tier experts differ from second-tier experts in the amount of deliberate practice they’d accumulated over the years. Famously, they found that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill like playing chess or playing a musical instrument.

Now Hambrick et al. have found that the cumulative amount of deliberate practice explains about a third of the variance in skill level between experts.

That leaves plenty of room for natural talent to play a role — but it also leaves room for quality of practice, coaching, etc.

Jamaicans think they’d be better off as a colony

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

In a harsh indictment of nearly 50 years of independence, 60 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed believe they would be better off if they were still ruled by Britain.

(Hat tip to Buttercup Dew.)

Navy dolphins discover Howell torpedo off Coronado

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Howell torpedoThe US Navy trains dolphins and sea lions to find mines — something I noted, good Lord, over a decade ago! — and recently some Navy dolphins discovered a Howell torpedo off Coronado:

Until recently only one Howell torpedo was known to exist, on display at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. Now a second has been discovered, not far from the Hotel del Coronado.

Meant to be launched from above the water or submerged torpedo tubes, the Howell torpedo was made of brass, 11 feet long, driven by a 132-pound flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm before launch. It had a range of 400 yards and a speed of 25 knots.

As a kid, I never wondered what propelled a self-propelled torpedo. The Howell torpedo used a flywheel, like a toy car, while its more successful competitor, the Whitehead torpedo, used compressed air:

The result was a submarine weapon, the Minenschiff (mine ship), the first self-propelled torpedo, officially presented to the Austrian Imperial Naval commission on December 21, 1866.

Maintaining proper depth was a major problem in the early days but Whitehead introduced his “secret” in 1868 which overcame this. It was a mechanism consisting of a hydrostatic valve and pendulum that caused the torpedo’s hydroplanes to be adjusted so as to maintain a preset depth.

After the Austrian government decided to invest in the invention, Whitehead started the first torpedo factory in Fiume. In 1870, he improved the devices to travel up to approximately 1,000 yd (910 m) at a speed of up to 6 kn (11 km/h), and by 1881 the factory was exporting torpedoes to ten other countries. The torpedo was powered by compressed air and had an explosive charge of gun-cotton.[5] Whitehead went on to develop more efficient devices, demonstrating torpedoes capable of 18 kn (33 km/h) in 1876, 24 kn (44 km/h) in 1886, and, finally, 30 kn (56 km/h) in 1890.

Royal Navy representatives visited Fiume for a demonstration in late 1869, and in 1870 a batch of torpedoes was ordered. In 1871, the British Admiralty paid Whitehead £15,000 for certain of his developments and production started at the Royal Laboratories in Woolwich the following year.

This was the crazy steampunk era of rapidly changing naval technology.

Treating one Disease by Causing Another

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Treating one disease by causing another is a mainstream therapeutic strategy, Bruce Charlton notes — especially in psychiatry:

Malarial Therapy of GPI (“General Paralysis of the Insane” — cerebral syphilis)

Patients with incurable and fatal GPI were deliberately infected with malaria. The very high pyrexia (temperature) killed the syphilis germ, but (hopefully) not the patient. The patient was then (hopefully) cured of their malaria using quinine.


Patients with chronic and incurable anxiety or tension were deliberately given brain damage, cutting off the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex from the rest of the brain. This made the patients docile and indifferent – which was presumed to be an improvement. The procedure became so popular that brain damage was inflicted on patients with less severe and probably temporary anxiety and other conditions, too.

Neuroleptics/Antipsychotics create Parkinson’s disease (or, rather, Parkinsonism, which may be reversible) for the treatment of fear, agitation, delusions, hallucinations, and hyperactivity

Patients with a range of very distressing psychological and psychotic symptoms were deliberately made to suffer from Parkinson’s disease by giving them dopamine blocking drugs. As well as producing the physical symptoms of Parkinsonism (tremor, stiffness, movement disorders), the drugs produced the psychological symptoms of Parkinsonism – emotional blunting and demotivation. Patients could no longer be bothered to respond to delusions and hallucinations.

Unfortunately patients could no longer be bothered to do anything else, either and became asocial, withdrawn, idle, and without the ability to experience pleasure. Also, when treatment was sustained, the drugs were found to have a permanent effect (tardive dyskinesia) and to create dependence — such that withdrawal often caused a psychotic breakdown.

Crazy Ants Are Displacing Fire Ants

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Crazy ants are displacing fire ants — and people want their fire ants back:

The Tawny crazy ant invasion is the most recent in a series of ant invasions from South America brought on by human movement. The Argentine ant invaded through the port of New Orleans in about 1891. In 1918 the black imported fire ant showed up in Mobile, Ala. Then in the 1930s, the red imported fire ant arrived in the U.S. and began displacing the black fire ant and the Argentine ants.

The UT researchers studied two crazy ant invasion sites on the Texas Gulf Coast and found that in those areas where the Tawny crazy ant population is densest, fire ants were eliminated. Even in regions where the crazy ant population is less dense, fire ant populations were drastically reduced. Other ant species, particularly native species, were also eliminated or diminished.

LeBrun said crazy ants are much harder to control than fire ants. They don’t consume most of the poison baits that kill fire ant mounds, and they don’t have the same kinds of colony boundaries that fire ants do. That means that even if they’re killed in a certain area, the supercolony survives and can swarm back over the area.

“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,” he said. “There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom. You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It’s very expensive.”

LeBrun said that in northern Argentina and southern Brazil, where the ants are native, populations are likely held in check by other ant species and a variety of natural enemies. In the U.S. there is no such natural control.

Here the crazy ants can attain densities up to 100 times as great as all other ants in the area combined. In the process, they monopolize food sources and starve out other species. LeBrun said the crazy ants, which are omnivorous, may also directly attack and kill other ant and arthropod species.

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

Antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain patients

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Danish researchers have found yet another malady caused by bacterial infection — chronic back pain:

Specialists who deal with back pain have long known that infections are sometimes to blame, but these cases were thought to be exceptional. That thinking has been overturned by scientists at the University of Southern Denmark who found that 20% to 40% of chronic lower back pain was caused by bacterial infections.


The Danish team describe their work in two papers published in the European Spine Journal. In the first report, they explain how bacterial infections inside slipped discs can cause painful inflammation and tiny fractures in the surrounding vertebrae.

Working with doctors in Birmingham, the Danish team examined tissue removed from patients for signs of infection. Nearly half tested positive, and of these, more than 80% carried bugs called Propionibacterium acnes.

The microbes are better known for causing acne. They lurk around hair roots and in the crevices in our teeth, but can get into the bloodstream during tooth brushing. Normally they cause no harm, but the situation may change when a person suffers a slipped disc. To heal the damage, the body grows small blood vessels into the disc. Rather than helping, though, they ferry bacteria inside, where they grow and cause serious inflammation and damage to neighbouring vertebrae that shows up on an MRI scan.

In the second paper, the scientists proved they could cure chronic back pain with a 100-day course of antibiotics. In a randomised trial, the drugs reduced pain in 80% of patients who had suffered for more than six months and had signs of damaged vertebra under MRI scans.