Home' Greymouth Star : July 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, July 25, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1587 Hideyoshi bans Christianity in Japan
and orders all Christians to leave.
1759 British forces defeat a French army at
Fort Niagara in Canada.
1814 British and American forces
fight each other to a standoff at
Lundy’s Lane, Canada.
1861 The Crittenden Resolution,
calling for the American Civil War
to be fought to preser ve the Union
and not for slavery, is passed by
1894 Japanese forces sink the British steamer
Kowshing which was bringing Chinese
reinforcements to Korea.
1909 French aviator Louis Bleriot becomes
the first man to fly across the English Channel
in an airplane.
1924 Greece announces the deportation of
1934 Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss
is shot and killed by Nazis.
1978 The first test-tube baby, Louis Brown, is
born in Oldham, England.
1984 Svetlana Savitskaya becomes first
woman to perform a space walk.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Thomas Eakins, American painter
(1844); Arthur James Balfour,
Prime Minister of England (1848);
Morris Raphel Cohen, American
philosopher and mathematician
(1880); Eric Hoffer, American
longshoreman and philosopher
(The True Believer, Before the
Sabbath) (1902); Johnny Hodges, jazz
musician (1907); Midge Decter, writer
and editor (1927); Barbara Harris, actress
“ It is always the simple that produces the
mar vellous.” — Amelia Barr.
“They were astounded at His teaching, for He
taught them as One having authority.”
— (Mark 1:22).
Before 6am today he
drove carefully to the
Station. He was not
going to wear out his modern blue sedan by
driving all the way to Lancaster Park to watch
the Springboks. He took advantage of the
excellent railcar ser vice from Greymouth to
Christchurch for the big game. He parked in
Mackay Street, locking the car carefully as any
prudent driver should.
But after all, he might just as well have
driven — he forgot to turn the motor off. Tw o
hours later, smoke gently burbling from the
exhaust attracted the attention of a sharp-eyed
passer-by. For almost an hour the car defied all
amateur efforts of breaking and entering and
lost a little paint around the windows in the
It was finally the police who showed they
had picked up a thing or two from the car
converters and managed to open the bonnet.
When he returns the rugby fan will not be able
to start his car because the battery wires have
At 5.30 last evening, Mr Alfred Chinn was
a proud man, having just had a brand new tv
set installed in his temporary home at Kaihinu.
But, at 6.30 after having been away for an hour
he found his workshop-living quarters blazing
from end to end.
The Hokitika Fire Brigade was called to the
scene, but the fire had taken too strong a hold
and the building was razed. The engine had to
park on a one-way bridge to pump water from
a nearby creek, holding up traffic for some
This was Mr Chinn’s second misfortune.
Eighteen months ago, his house was burned to
uFood for thought
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Kishi, Japan’s prime
just after winning
the battle to push
the treaty revising
the country’s military
alliance with the
against it were so massive and violent that
his political capital was exhausted. Today
his grandson, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
is waging a quite similar battle, but he will
probably get away with it. More is the pity.
Abe, like his grandfather, is on the right
of Japanese politics, and his target this
time is Article 9 of Japan’s post-war Peace
Constitution. That clause undermines his
vision of Japan as a “normal country” (like
the US, Britain or France) that sends its
troops overseas to fight wars.
The language of Article 9 is clear. It
says that “the Japanese people forever
renounce war as a sovereign right of the
nation and the threat or use of force as
means of settling international disputes ...
Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other
war potential, will never be maintained.”
It would take a pretty sharp lawyer to get
Moreover, it is very hard to change
the Japanese constitution. It would take
a two-thirds majority in each house of
parliament, plus a national referendum,
to change or drop Article 9. Abe would
certainly lose that referendum; 80% of
Japanese like Article 9 just the way it is.
This is deeply ironic, since it was written
into the post-war Japanese constitution
in 1946 by the American occupation
authorities, who feared that otherwise
Japan might re-militarise and become an
international threat again. By the mid-
1950s, however, the US was locked into the
Cold War confrontation with Communist
China and the Soviet Union, and it badly
wanted Japanese military support in Asia.
But by then the Japanese population had
fallen in love with Article 9. After three
million war dead, followed by the atomic
bombings at Hiroshima amd Nagasaki,
they wanted nothing more to do with
militarised great-power politics. Article 9
became their foolproof excuse for staying
out of the whole stupid, bloody game.
Those are the opinions of ordinary
Japanese, however. They are not so widely
held among the elite — and Japan has an
elite like few other countries.
A Japanese historian once told me in
confidence that he reckoned about 400
people — politicians, industrialists and
senior bureaucrats — make almost all the
decisions in Japan. Moreover, they have
been inter-marrying for generations, and
are almost all distantly related to one
another. Which explains, perhaps, why the
grandson of a “Class A” war criminal is
now the prime minister of Japan.
There is an interesting contrast between
Nobosuke Kishi, who became Minister
of Munitions in the Imperial Japanese
government in 1941, and Albert Speer,
whom Hitler appointed as Minister of
Armaments and War Production in early
1942. Both men were arrested at war’s end,
and Speer was sentenced to 20 years in
But Kishi was never charged, and while
Speer languished in Spandau prison Kishi
was freed, helped to found the Liberal
Democratic Party that has dominated
Japanese politics ever since, and was elected
prime minister in 1957. In fact, the great
majority of the “400” of that era were back
in business by the mid-1950s: the US
needed to get Japan back on its feet in a
hurry, and it had nowhere else to turn.
So here we are, half a century later, and
their descendants are still in charge. Japan
is a democracy, but the voters mainly get
to choose between members of the “400”.
Kishi’s brother, Eisaku Sato, was prime
minister for eight years in the 1960s and
early 1970s, and his grandson Shinzo Abe
became prime minister for the first time in
It is safe to say that most members of the
elite have always wanted Japan to become
a “normal country” — that is, free to fight
wars again. They are not thinking about
aggressive wars, of course; only “just ” wars,
probably alongside their American allies.
The big stumbling block has always been
popular opinion — but Shinzo Abe has
found a way around that.
If you cannot win a referendum on
constitutional change, then do not hold
one. Just “reinterpret ” Article 9 so it
means the opposite of what it seems to
say. Shinzo Abe’s cabinet did that last
year, declaring that Article 9 really allows
the military to go into battle overseas
to protect allies — so -called “collective
defence” — even if there is no direct threat
to Japan or its people. That covers just
about every contingency you can imagine.
Last week Abe pushed two bills
through parliament that reshape military
policy and structures in accord with that
“reinterpretation”. The opposition parties
walked out and thousands demonstrated
outside the parliament building, but the
deed is done, and there will not be any
referendum about it.
Unless some mass movement arises to
protest against this cynical manipulation
of the law, Abe will get away with it. The
“ Peace Constitution” will need a new name,
and the US will finally have a Japan willing
to fight by its side. No doubt that will
make the world a safer place.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Japan is gutting article 9
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks next to a placard showing a defensive scenario for the protection of Japanese nationals
overseas. Abe is using ‘anime’ cartoons, internet chats and even an unusual show-and-tell tv appearance, complete with a mock-up
of burning buildings, in an effort to persuade wary voters that his bolder defence policy makes sense.
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Mother of all battles
er belly bulging, Hilda
Angarita hauls herself
to five different drug
stores in the sweltering
Venezuelan city of
Maracaibo until she
finally finds post-caesarean patches.
“I’m giving birth tomorrow and here I
am in the street. I want to go home,” says
the teacher, 37, fanning herself as she rests
on a bench the day before her scheduled
Over the previous nine months,
Angarita’s life has been consumed with
searching for vitamins, calcium, nappies
and medicines amid widespread shortages
in recession-hit Venezuela.
Currency controls and flailing local
production have fuelled worsening
scarcities that are now a blight of daily life
for many Venezuelans — especially those
expecting a child.
The shortages are compounded in
places like Maracaibo, a western city near
Colombia. Many here offset inflation
and a depreciating currency by selling
price-controlled goods across the border
or on the local blackmarket, leaving less
To get by, pregnant women wake up
at the crack of dawn to join long store
queues, try to stock up on nappies before
their baby is born, visit a dozen shops for
a single product, tap social media to barter
for goods, and spend small fortunes on
the blackmarket where smugglers jack up
prices at the sight of their bellies.
Or they simply go without.
“Everything is an obstacle,” says
Angarita, who now regrets voting for late
socialist president Hugo Chavez.
More worryingly, shortages in the
health sector pose an increased risk
of complications during pregnancy,
according to doctors and rights group.
Maternity and paediatric units “are
overcrowded, there are not enough
incubators, water is lacking and power
cuts are normal, equipment is damaged,
there are not surgical supplies and blood
banks do not work,” said a joint report by
local activist groups Codevida and Provea
Deteriorating hospitals are at times
forced to turn away patients due to
lack of everything from antibiotics to
doctors, who have joined an exodus of
professionals leaving Venezuela amid a
bruising economic crisis and epidemic of
Drawing a full picture of the effect of
scarcity on pregnancy is tricky due to a
lack of up-to-date official data.
During his 14 years in power,
Chavez tapped an oil bonanza to build
thousands of free health centres in poor
neighbourhoods, largely staffed by Cuban
doctors, and create maternity-focused
programmes like the Baby Jesus Mission.
Supporters also praise him for
implementing an across-the-board six-
month maternity leave.
World Bank data shows infant mortality
under the age of one dropped from
around 19.6 deaths per 1000 live births
in 1998, the year he was elected, to 12.9
But many relevant indicators have not
been published since shortages worsened,
and many Venezuelans say the health
sector is in an abysmal state.
The last available health ministry figures
for infant mortality under one show
an increase of 2.35% from January to
October last year compared with the same
period of 2013.
Venezuela’s government did not respond
to requests for comment and the National
Institute for Women said it was not
currently authorised to give interviews.
A spokeswoman for Unicef in Venezuela
said she could not comment because of
lack of data.
President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s
handpicked successor, blames the
shortages on speculators who he says
hoard medicines and other goods to stoke
anger against his government.
He also says his government remains
committed to social spending despite a
recent tumble in oil prices.
“Even if oil falls to $0, our children
have everything guaranteed for them,
their access to health care, education,
everything,” he said from behind a
medical mask as he cooed over newborns
during a recent visit to a paediatric
By 8am, over 100 pregnant women line
the corridors of a State-run maternity
centre in Maracaibo. Portraits of Chavez
and 19th century liberation hero Simon
Bolivar hang above them.
Staff will eventually see them in rooms
that can reach around 35degC because
of insufficient spare parts to repair air
Doctors say the temperatures are a
breeding ground for bacteria. Basics
like sheets and toilet paper are often
unavailable because of theft.
Three patients with high-risk
pregnancies receiving oxygen through
tubes almost died of choking this year due
to a shortage of suction catheters, said a
doctor in the intensive care unit.
“The crisis gets worse by the day because
every day the shortages grow,” said
an obstetrician in between examining
patients in her small office, asking to
“I bring gloves, catheters, and gauzes
in from abroad. D uring the day, patients
look for supplies wherever they can but
at night it ’s dangerous,” added the doctor,
who says she too is thinking about leaving
About seven in 10 drugs are currently
unavailable, estimates the Pharmaceutical
Federation of Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Childcare and Paediatrics
Society says chickenpox vaccines are
scarce, those for polio and hepatitis are
intermittently available, and babies are
at risk of being born underweight due to
lack of vitamins and supplements.
While many in Venezuela appear
resigned to the shortages, small pockets of
society are protesting.
“It ’s because we’re scared and because
we’ve stayed at home silently that we’ve
ended up in this situation,” said Patricia
Fernandez, 27, a mother of twins who
joined a march last month to demand
solutions for shortages of nappies, baby
formula and milk.
She and her taxi driver husband, who
installs security cameras to supplement
earnings, spend a quarter of their monthly
income on nappies and milk alone.
“How long will this go on for? I can’t get
used to them limiting what I can get for
my children,” said Fernandez.
On a recent hot morning in Cabimas,
a poor town near Maracaibo, hopeful
shoppers flanked by National Guard
officers yelling instructions waited in a
parking lot hoping a truck with goods —
perhaps shampoo or nappies — would
pull up eventually.
Shoppers complain that re-sellers grab
the first spots in lines and threaten people
who argue with them. Given the high rate
of single-parent homes, some mothers
have little choice but to queue with their
“This is unmanageable,” said Meiby
Gonzalez, 21, cradling her shirtless
11-month old child after nearly four
hours in line.
“I wouldn’t have another child. In this
situation, don’t have children.”
Some are indeed putting off having a
child, although shortages of birth control
options can thwart planning in a country
where abortion is illegal unless the
woman’s life is at risk.
Yasira Sara, a stay-at-home mother of
four, said she fell pregnant because she
could no longer find contraceptive pills.
Condoms are also scarce.
“The news was awful — and then I
found out there were two of them!”
said Sara, 32, after a check-up, adding
she had not been able to find a kit for
her caesarean, which many women in
Venezuela opt for. — Reuters
A woman carrying a bag with nappies, queues in a line outside a pharmacy to buy nappies in Caracas.
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