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From Beijng to Tokyo, from Seoul to New Delhi, LinkAsia takes viewers into media about Asia – from Asia – offering unfiltered insight into one of the most diverse, fast-paced regions of the globe.

 

The LinkAsia blog features in-depth analysis from expert contributors and LinkAsia producers, as well as transcripts from NHK Japan reports.

 

LinkAsia airs Fridays at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT on Link TV, and is available online at LinkAsia.org.

LinkAsia News Brief

Nuclear Comeback in Energy Policy

TEPCOIn Japan, government officials are moving ahead with plans to revive nuclear power. Prior to the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi meltdown, 30% of the country's electricity was generated by more than 50 commercial reactors. Previous leaders had vowed to phase nuclear out, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released a new policy redefining it as an important energy source. Here's NHK with more.

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Toshimitsu Motehi, Japanese Industry Minister:

We will figure out how much nuclear power we need and we will secure that amount.


Reporter:

The draft document adopted by a group of cabinet ministers endorses a major change in Japan’s energy policy. The nuclear accident in Fukushima 3 years ago triggered a nationwide debate over nuclear power. The ruling party at that time promises to phase-out nuclear energy within 30 years. Shinzo Abe’s return to power in the December 2012 election changed the situation. The Prime Minister called elimination of nuclear power irresponsible.


The draft energy policy adopted on Tuesday says the government will re-start the reactors once they clear the latest safety regulations.


The document also underlines the need to learn from the nuclear accident and the importance of safety. But some people question whether it is really safe to resumes operations at nuclear power plants.

Among them, the governor of Niigata. His prefecture hosts the world largest nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company.


Hirohiko Izumida, Niigata Governor:

TEPCO hasn't learned from the Fukushima accident. It's not qualified to operate nuclear plants.


Reporter:

Paul Scalise is an expert on Japan’s energy policy. He explains the rationale behind the government renewed  emphasis on nuclear power.


Paul Scalise/ Research Fellow, Temple University:

You have Japan's very precarious lack of natural resources and the hope that by moving away from fossil fuels like imported gas, oil, and coal, you can avoid very disrupted shocks to both electricity prices as well as gas prices that took place in the 1970s.


Reporter:

Scalise said the energy policy will be welcomed by the business community. But he adds the utilities and the government needs to display more transparency in order to convince the general public. 

 
 

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Farmers and Markets Team up to Deliver Fresh Produce by Text Message

And in Japan, farm fresh is now just a text message away. Farmers and grocers have teamed up to feed the growing demand for fresh produce through farmer's markets. There are now more than 17,000 of them in Japan. Customers love the cheaper prices and fresh produce. NHK shows us how managers of one market have found a way to ensure their apples are even crisper, and greens even greener.


Reporter:

Every year more than a million people pull into this parking lot in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo. This is one of Japan's busiest farm markets. Last year it sold over 5-million-dollars' worth of produce. There's a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, all sourced from 150 local farms. The big draw is price. Most items cost 10% less than an ordinary supermarket.


Shopper:

There's such a great variety. I shop in many different places, but I always end up coming back here.


Reporter:

The secret to the market's success?  A great selection of produce that's literally farm fresh. Nothing is left to chance. Each purchase is logged and analyzed at the cash register. The data is then sent direct to suppliers, the farmers themselves. Akemi Ikeda supplies more than 30 varieties of vegetables to the market. Even out in the fields she's kept in the loop.


Akemi Ikeda:

It's from the farm market.


Reporter:

Each farmer gets data on their sales sent to them by text message once an hour.


Akemi Ikeda:

Twenty bunches of chrysanthemum greens. I'll pick some more straightaway.


Reporter:

Right away, Ikeda starts pulling up more of the greens. She and her husband tie them in bunches, then rush them over to the market.  This is how the market always keeps its produce fresh, by adjusting supply to meet demand in real time.


Akemi Ikeda:

It's really encouraging to see how much I've sold each day. It's great.


Reporter:

This just in time supply system was set up by the market's manager, Yuzuru Matsumoto. Matsumoto has overseen a sharp rise in business. In the past five years, the number of visitors has risen by over 25%.


Yuzuru Matsumoto:

We try to look at it from the customer's point of view, and give them the service they want. We're always looking to improve the way we do things.


Reporter:

There's another factor that helps to motivate the farmers. The market lets the growers set their own prices for their produce. It takes just a 15% commission. Everything else goes to the farmers. The farmers coordinate closely with the market staff in deciding which vegetables to grow.


Market Employee:

As for the spinach between December 27th and the 31st we were about 300 kilograms short.


Farmer:

I'm thinking of sewing some after my tomatoes. If I put in 2- 300 square meters, that should be about right.


Reporter:

Holding regular meetings like this has changed the way the farmers think about their crops. Makoto Watanabe started working the land 7 years ago. He now grows six kinds of carrots. Most of these are new varieties that he'd never thought of before.


Makoto Watanabe:

It's really fun coming up with new products to sell and ways to create a market for them.


Yuzuru Matsumoto:

I think the producers feel much more involved as participants in this business.


Reporter:

From the field to the market and then straight to customers. It's an approach that works for everyone.

 


 
 

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Secrecy Bill Debacle Weakens Japanese Prime Minister's Support

Shinzo AbeJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is nearing the end of his first year in office. Following a landslide victory in 2012, Abe launched a number of policies to promote economic recovery. He also moved to revise the country's pacifist constitution to allow the military use of force. And the recent passage of a secrecy bill is Abe's latest move to boost Japan's defense capabilities. But do Japanese approve of this direction? A recent NHK poll suggests his popularity is the lowest it's been since he was elected.

Reporter:
Our interviewers spoke to more than 1,000 people by phone. Fifty percent said they support Abe's cabinet, a drop of 10 percentage points from last month. Thirty-five percent said they don't. Our poll asked for feedback on the new secrecy law. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner approved last. The law gives the government more power to decide what people can and can't know. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they disapprove of the law. Thirty-two percent said they approve of it. Fifty-nine percent said the discussion over the bill by Diet members wasn't sufficient. Eight percent said lawmakers had a thorough discussion. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they are worried the law may infringe on the public's right to know. Abe spoke on Monday and addressed the criticism over the new law.

Shinzo Abe:
I sincerely recognize the citizens' severe criticism as a reprimand. I should have taken more time to explain the bill. But the problem lies in the fact that we lack rules to decide what constitutes a secret and how to keep secrets classified.

 

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FukushimaDespite his poor poll numbers, Abe's going ahead with plans to strengthen Japan's military. His cabinet is expected to approve a plan to deploy more war planes and unmanned drones in the country's southwest. They'd be stationed closer to the islands that Japan's disputing with China. The defense review also calls for setting up an amphibious force to take back any islands occupied by a foreign country. The review makes no secret that the build-up is designed to counter China's growing presence in the East China Sea. Abe's cabinet is expected to approve the defense review in a few days.

And three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster people in the area still fear the risk of cancer and other illnesses caused by consuming contaminated radioactive food and drink. Produce, meat, milk and fish from the affected areas are known to be contaminated. Since 2011, more than 300,000 people in the prefecture have been tested for internal contamination using a device called the whole body counter. But until recently, the scanning machine was too large for infants, who are the most vulnerable to radiation exposure. In response to this problem, scientists developed a new testing device for babies. Once again, here's NHK.

Reporter:
Tests for radiation exposure for infants began at a hospital in Hirata village. Over 30 families showed up for the test.

Parent:
I have been so worried. I've been waiting a long time for my baby to be checked.

Parent:
I don't know what will happen when my baby grows up. So I'd like this checkup.

Reporter:
Yumi Takahara lives 80 kilometers from the nuclear plant. She has long been worried about the effects of the radiation on her three daughters. Manami, the youngest, is six months old.

Yumi Takahara:
I'd feel safer if my baby were checked at a younger age.

Reporter:
This new device is called Baby Scan. It measures the internal radiation level of an infant placed inside it. Infants undergoing the radiation check are placed in this compartment where they remain for four minutes. The machine has a relatively wide opening and children can watch their parents during the checkup, which helps them stay relaxed. Professor Ryugo Hayano of the University of Tokyo headed the research team that developed the scanner. He says the main challenge was to make it as precise as possible.

Professor Ryugo Hayano:
Even though the baby, or the children, are eating the same amount of radioactive cesium as compared to parents, the amount of radioactive cesium accumulated in the body will be much less. In order to quantify the amount of radioactive cesium in the body, it doesn't make sense to measure with the same detection limit that is used for adults.

Reporter:
The machine makes meticulous calculations and is designed to block as much external radiation as possible. It has four radiation sensors, twice as many as previous models. Takahara was anxious to hear the results of the scan. Manami was put into the machine. She cried a bit because she had to be away from her mother for several minutes. But her body was successfully measured and the examination was completed. The results came in minutes later.

Healthcare employee:
No cesium is detected.

Yumi Takahara:
We have been eating a variety of foods, so that was my main concern. I am very relieved to hear this positive result.

Reporter:
A thousand people have already made appointments to have their children examined. Thanks to this machine, those most vulnerable to radiation, infants, are finally beginning to get the protection they need.

 
 

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A Month After Typhoon Haiyan, Tacloban Struggling to Rebuild
A month after Typhoon Haiyan wiped out parts of the Philippines and killed nearly 6,000 people, the hardest hit areas are struggling to clean up. And 1,500 people are still missing. Japan's NHK has this report from the city of Tacloban, where residents are struggling to recover from the disaster.

Reporter:
This is Tacloban, the biggest city on Leyte Island, one of the hardest hit areas. Mountains of debris are everywhere along the coast. Infrastructure such as electricity and water is still heavily damaged. Some of it is totally destroyed.

Resident:
Some people are back at work. But only about 30 percent. We don't even have electricity.

Reporter:
The markets are often running. For those with cash, there's plenty of food and meat. But whatever we grow, we see long queues. Survivors wait to receive some of the international aid that has finally arrived. Most people have nothing. The residents of this village used to be carpenters, farmers and fishermen. But one month after the Typhoon Haiyan washed out everything they had, they now found themselves earning from "cash for work" programs. Elena Daga has a temporary job. She's been hired by an aid organization. She clears debris for 8 hours and gets paid about two and a half dollars. Elena had a small house and a shop in downtown Tacloban. The day before the typhoon her husband told her to evacuate with their children. He said he would look after the shop. She returned four days later to find nothing left but the foundations.

Elena Daga:
This is all that's left. My husband was swept away by the waves.

Reporter:
Elena has built a shelter on the outskirts of Tacloban out of debris that she found. She lives with her two daughters and a son who cry for their father.

Elena Daga:
I need to get a proper job. My children need to go to school. That's all I want.

Reporter:
The majority of people here are Christians like Elena. Many say that this year they don't have the means to celebrate Christmas. They're only at the beginning of a long road to recovery.
 
 

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Philippines Disaster Refocuses Climate Attention on Low-Lying Nations

PhilippinesIt's been two weeks since typhoon Haiyan devastated Leyte and other islands in the central Philippines. Initial estimates of casualties were ten thousand. They may end up to be far fewer. The government in Manila has released new figures on the number of people dead and injured. Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on the latest figures.

Reporter:
The natural disaster risk and management council updated its casualty report on Wednesday. It said 4,011 people had been confirmed dead and 18,557 others injured. Three thousand, three hundred and ten of the deaths were in Leyte, that's about 80 percent of the total. The island was hit hard by storm surges. Nearby Samar Island suffered 411 deaths, most of the dead of have yet to be identified. The storm caused widespread damage. Severed roads and bridges are making it difficult to get food, water, and other supplies to the survivors. Many of those injured are believed to be without adequate medical services. The Philippine government has been stepping up its relief efforts, sending in helicopters and ships. The United States, Japan, China and other countries are assisting.

 

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Typhoon Haiyan hit just as the latest international talks to slow down climate change got underway in Poland. The typhoon -- among the worst ever recorded -- may have focused the attention of conference delegates on the dangers to low-lying countries like the Philippines: threatened by more violent weather and rising sea levels brought about by climate change. Japan's NHK has the details.

Reporter:
Kiribati is a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean. By mid century, rising ocean levels could leave 80 percent of the main island under water. Many homes already vulnerable to high tides. Experts also point out a possible link between global warming and severe weather. A recent example was typhoon Haiyan. A report from the international panel of climate change assets that if countries fail to act. Average temperature of planet could rise by up to 4.8 degrees by the end of the century. The international community has agreed try to keep this temperature rise within two degrees. But officials at the UN environment program said the pay of current measures is too slow. In an emotional intervention a negotiator from the Philippines urged his counterparts from around the world to act quickly.

Yeb Sano, Climate Change Commissioner, Philippines:
We can fix this. We can stop this madness right now, right here, in the middle of this football field, and stop moving the goal post.

Reporter:
The delegate went as far as started a hunger strike to underline his commitment. Other participants to the conference have decided to join him. The purpose of this year's conference is to lay the round work for new climate agreement that regulates greenhouse gas machines beyond 2020. UN officials hope the agreement can be signed in 2015. But so far, negotiators have failed to achieve real progress. European Union and United States disagree over when countries should submit their commitments to limit greenhouse gas emission. And developing countries insist the mandatory measures should apply only to industrialized nations whom they considered historically responsible for global warming. Developing countries are also demanding that a new fund be set up to help them deal with the adverse consequences of climate change. But many industrialized nations are reluctant to contribute additional funds. Some experts are pessimistic about the prospect of an agreement before the end of the conference.

Jusen Asuka, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies:
Ministers from developed countries will be forced to propose something concrete, regarding climate finance or new climate compensation for the damage caused by climate change. Otherwise developing countries will condemn the developed countries more strongly. It may take time to get concrete positions or answers for this issue for each country.

Reporter:
Japan announced last week that it will be scaling down its self-imposed greenhouse gas reduction target. The decision drew considerable international criticism, and it may serve as a pretext for other countries not to commit to ambitious targets.

 
 

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